Airbus to launch new low-carbon ocean fleet featuring Flettner rotors
Mentioning Airbus doesn't usually bring the image of sea vessels to mind, but the aerospace giant has announced that it plans to replace its charter fleet that carries components across the ocean with greener, more efficient ships starting in 2026.
We lie in a global economy and that's true even if we're speaking of single companies. In order to gain the proper levels of efficiency, it's common for firms to spread their facilities across continents and even the entire globe.
It's partly for this reason that Airbus maintains its own fleet of three chartered vessels, which ferry aircraft subassemblies across the Atlantic Ocean from Saint-Nazaire, France, to the company's single-aisle aircraft final assembly line in Mobile, Alabama. With A320 production expected to rise to 75 aircraft per month by 2026, that adds up to a hefty carbon footprint.
To combat this, Airbus has commissioned shipowner Louis Dreyfus Armateurs to build three new low-emission roll-on/roll-off ships that Airbus will lease, but Louis Dreyfus Armateurs will own and operate.
The new streamlined vessels will feature six Flettner rotors, which are large, vertical, rotating cylinders that act like airfoils and use the wind to generate thrust to drive the craft. In addition, the ships will incorporate two dual-fuel engines running on maritime diesel oil and e-methanol. Also, routing software will be used to plot the most effective course that takes the most advantage of prevailing winds and currents.
Each transport will be capable of carrying seventy 40-ft (12-m) containers and six single-aisle aircraft sub assembly sets – up from the four-set maximum of the current fleet's ships.
According to Airbus, the new technology will reduce carbon emissions from 68,000 to 33,000 tonnes by 2030.
"The renewal of our marine fleet is a major step forward in reducing our environmental impact," said Nicolas Chrétien, Head of Sustainability & Environment at Airbus. "The latest generation of vessels proposed by Louis Dreyfus Armateurs are more fuel efficient than their predecessors, using cutting-edge technologies like wind-assisted propulsion. This demonstrates our determination to lead the way in decarbonizing our sector by innovating not just in aviation, but across all our industrial operations."