Phoenix World City and two sister ships will be built, according to the World City Corporation, which has announced the concept of a "virtual shipyard" for the construction of three vessels.

The virtual shipyard will integrate shipyards, subcontractors and key suppliers to tackle what World City has termed the "American Flagship" project.

The company calls the "virtual" concept the new "model" for 21st century manufacturing.

According to World City, more than half of the shipbuilding capacity in the United States has joined the virtual shipyard working group to plan for the construction of the first vessel. The consortium will serve as a national laboratory - or virtual maritime technology center - for developing better ways to build ships, at a lower cost, higher quality, and shorter time­-to-market.

World City also points out that the virtual shipyard concept can be viewed as a blueprint for defense conversion in the shipbuilding sector. The U.S. Navy is taking part in the project, prompted by the plan's support of objectives parallel to the Navy's own Affordability Through Commonality Program, according to World City.

Project details include the development of a computer model of the shipbuilding process to facilitate production planning and scheduling; a high speed data communications infrastructure; organizational learning program to retrain employees; technology transfers; and new bulkhead panel systems; as well as employment of so-called intelligent manufacturing systems and a commitment to cleanest and most efficient power plant available.

World City's operating plan also calls for an onboard apprenticeship program of graduate and undergraduate students from maritime academies, culinary and hospitality schools, and universities.

Each ship, when and if built, will be about 250,000 tons and accommodate 5,600 guests. Plans call for deployment in the East and West Coasts and in Hawaii.

The Phoenix concept was originally launched nearly 10 years ago and its major hurdling block has always been financing which has still to be secured.