Dynamic capacity is totally different from quasi-static capacity of ship structural components, although most ultimate strength analyses at present by researchers are performed under quasi-static conditions. To investigate the dynamic ultimate strength characteristics, the dynamic ultimate strength analyses of stiffened plates subjected to impact load were studied based on a 3-D nonlinear explicit finite element method (FEM) in this paper. The impact load in the present work is characterized as a half-sine function. A series of nonlinear finite element analyses are carried out using Budiansky-Roth (B-R) criterion. The influence of impact durations, model ranges, boundary conditions, initial imperfections and impact loads on the dynamic ultimate strength of stiffened plates are discussed. In addition, the ultimate strength of stiffened plates under the in-plane impact combined with lateral pressure was also calculated, which shows lateral pressure has a negligible effect on the dynamic ultimate strength of stiffened plates subjected to the impact load with short durations. Other important conclusions can be obtained from this paper, which are useful insights for the development of ultimate strength theory of ship structures and lay a good foundation for the study of dynamic ultimate strength in the future.