Ship chartered by Airbus to be fitted with suction sails

A ship chartered by Airbus to transport aircraft subassemblies is to be fitted with wind-assisted propulsion technology that captures wind energy to generate thrust.

Rendering of the vessel Ville de Bordeaux, chartered by Airbus and operated by Louis Dreyfus Armateurs, and equipped with three bound4blue eSAILs
Rendering of the vessel Ville de Bordeaux, chartered by Airbus and operated by Louis Dreyfus Armateurs, and equipped with three bound4blue eSAILs - Louis Dreyfus Armateurs / bound4blue

Developed by the Spain-based firm bound4blue, the eSAIL is said to create as much as six to seven times more lift than a conventional rigid sail. Airbus said it consists of a sail-like vertical surface and an electric-powered air suction system that helps the airflow to re-adhere to the sail, generating additional lift and reducing the load on the ship’s main engines.Three 22-metre-high eSAILs will be fitted to Louis Dreyfus Armateurs’ Ville de Bordeaux ahead of a six-month performance monitoring period starting early 2024. The roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) Ville de Bordeaux regularly ferries A320 Family subassemblies from Europe to Mobile, Alabama in the United States for final assembly.

“We at Airbus have been studying wind-assisted technologies as a potential energy source for our maritime operations for many years,” said Nicolas Chrétien, head of sustainability & environment at Airbus. “As we embark on an exciting journey with our partners Louis Dreyfus Armateurs and bound4blue, we reaffirm our ambition to explore all innovation pathways to develop more sustainable maritime solutions and further reduce the carbon footprint of our industrial operations.”

Airbus said that fitting the eSAILs on the Ville de Bordeaux supports the company’s commitment to halve CO2 emissions from its maritime operations by 2030, compared to a 2015 baseline. According to bound4blue estimations, these eSAILs could deliver fuel and CO2 emissions savings of up to 560 tons and 1,800 tons respectively for this ship annually.

David Ferrer, CTO of bound4blue, said: “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.”

“At Louis Dreyfus Armateurs, we are committed to supporting the decarbonization of the shipping industry, achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050,” added Mathieu Muzeau, transport & logistic general manager at Louis Dreyfus Armateurs. “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. We are pleased to announce that we will soon install bound4blue’s eSAILs on our ro-ro vessel, Ville de Bordeaux, which we operate for Airbus.”

The European Union is co-funding the installation of eSAILs on the Ville de Bordeaux.