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An illustration of the Ville de Bordeaux equipped with bound4blue's eSAIL® technology. Photo courtesy bound4blue

An illustration of the Ville de Bordeaux equipped with bound4blue's eSAIL® technology. Photo courtesy bound4blue

Airbus to Equip Ro-Ro with Wind-Assisted Propulsion Tech

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 1850
October 3, 2023

France-based sustainable aerospace company Airbus, in collaboration with shipowner Louis Dreyfus Armateurs and Spain-based firm bound4blue, is set to equip one of its aircraft subassembly transport ships with bound4blue’s wind-assisted propulsion technology.

The technology, known as eSAIL®, harnesses wind energy to generate thrust, resulting in substantial fuel consumption and CO2 emissions savings.

The system features a sail-like vertical surface and an electric-powered air suction system, creating up to seven times more lift compared to conventional rigid sails, according to bound4blue. By helping the airflow to re-adhere to the sail, the system generates additional lift, thereby reducing the load on the ship’s main engines.

The Ville de Bordeaux, a vessel chartered by Airbus to transport aircraft assembly components from Europe to the United States, will be fitted with three 22-meter-high eSAILs®. A six-month performance monitoring period will commence in early 2024 to assess the technology’s effectiveness.

For bound4blue, the installation will mark the first in the Roll-on/Roll-off (Ro-Ro) sector and third overall.

Ville de Bordeaux made headlines last December when it tested an automated kite system, known as Seawing, on a voyage from Europe to the United States. The Seawing system is developed by Airseas, a company that counts Airbus as a minority shareholder and launch partner.

The Ville de Bordeaux tests Airseas' Seawing kit system during a transatlantic voyage in 2022. Photo Credit: Airseas
The Ville de Bordeaux tests Airseas’ Seawing kit system during a transatlantic voyage in 2022. Photo Credit: Airseas

The use of wind-assisted propulsion on the Ville de Bordeaux aligns with Airbus’ commitment to cutting CO2 emissions from its maritime operations by 50% by 2030, using a 2015 baseline. bound4blue estimates that the sails could result in annual fuel savings of up to 560 tons and CO2 emissions reductions of up to 1,800 tons for the ship.

This project is co-funded by the European Union, highlighting the collaborative efforts to promote sustainable maritime solutions.

Airbus’ Head of Sustainability & Environment, Nicolas Chrétien, shared his excitement for the project, highlighting the company’s commitment to exploring new and innovative approaches to enhance sustainability in its operations.

“This technology looks promising and we are eager to start testing it in real conditions by the end of the year,” Chrétien said.

Louis Dreyfus Armateurs, the shipowner partnering with Airbus, shares a commitment to decarbonizing the shipping industry. Mathieu Muzeau, Transport & Logistic General Manager at Louis Dreyfus Armateurs, highlighted the importance of wind-assisted propulsion in achieving their objective of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

“Wind-assisted propulsion is one of the solutions we believe will help us reach this objective. To determine the best technology for our operations, we are eager to identify and test various forms of wind-assisted propulsion, including rotating vertical cylinders, flexible sails, rigid sails, and wings,” said Muzeau.

David Ferrer, CTO of bound4blue said the project will mark the first-ever fixed suction sail installation on a Ro-Ro ship.

“After having implemented and proven our technology on three ships already, we’re excited to install our 22-metre eSAILs on Ville de Bordeaux. This deployment will mark the first-ever fixed suction sail installation on a Ro-Ro ship, demonstrating that suction sails can be deployed on ships with high weather deck and large windage area, not compromising the vessel’s stability,” said Ferrer.

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