While Airbus is renowned for its aviation prowess, the aerospace giant is charting a new course by announcing plans to replace its charter fleet, used to transport aircraft components across the ocean, with eco-friendly vessels starting in 2026. The decision reflects the interconnected nature of today’s global economy, where even aerospace companies maintain a worldwide presence to maximize efficiency.

To meet its production needs, Airbus operates a fleet of three chartered vessels, which shuttle aircraft subassemblies across the Atlantic Ocean from Saint-Nazaire, France, to the final assembly line for single-aisle aircraft in Mobile, Alabama. However, the increasing A320 production rate, expected to reach 75 aircraft per month by 2026, has raised concerns about the environmental impact of this shipping approach.

In response, Airbus has joined forces with shipowner Louis Dreyfus Armateurs to create a fleet of three new low-emission roll-on/roll-off ships. These ships will be leased by Airbus, while Louis Dreyfus Armateurs retains ownership and operational responsibilities. The new vessels incorporate innovative design elements to minimize their environmental footprint.

Key features of the streamlined vessels include the integration of six Flettner rotors. These large, vertical, rotating cylinders act as airfoils and utilize wind to generate thrust, enhancing the ships’ efficiency. Additionally, the vessels will be equipped with two dual-fuel engines, capable of running on maritime diesel oil and e-methanol, further reducing emissions.

To optimize fuel efficiency, advanced routing software will be employed to determine the most effective course, taking advantage of prevailing winds and currents. Each ship will have the capacity to transport seventy 40-foot (12-meter) containers and six single-aisle aircraft subassembly sets, an improvement from the four-set maximum of the current fleet’s vessels.

Airbus estimates that the adoption of this innovative technology will lead to a substantial reduction in carbon emissions, cutting down from 68,000 to 33,000 tonnes by 2030. Airbus remains committed to environmental sustainability, with Nicolas Chrétien, Head of Sustainability & Environment at Airbus, emphasizing that “The renewal of our marine fleet is a major step forward in reducing our environmental impact. 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.”

By Impact Lab