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Airbus to Upgrade Fleet for More Sustainable Aircraft Subassembly Transportation

by Anna

Airbus is set to revamp its fleet of chartered vessels responsible for transporting aircraft subassemblies between production facilities across the Atlantic. The company has contracted shipowner Louis Dreyfus Armateurs to construct and operate three modern, low-emission roll-on/roll-off vessels with wind-assisted propulsion, and these vessels are expected to be in operation by 2026.

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This move aims to significantly reduce the average annual transatlantic CO2 emissions from 68,000 to 33,000 tonnes by 2030. It aligns with Airbus’ pledge to cut its overall industrial emissions by up to 63% by the end of this decade compared to the 2015 baseline, consistent with the 1.5°C pathway outlined in the Paris Agreement.

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Airbus plans to gradually replace its chartered vessels responsible for ferrying aircraft subassemblies between Saint-Nazaire, France, and the single-aisle aircraft final assembly line in Mobile, Alabama.

The new vessels will employ a combination of six Flettner rotors, which are large rotating cylinders that harness wind power to propel the ship forward, and two dual-fuel engines running on maritime diesel oil and e-methanol. Advanced routing software will optimize the vessels’ transatlantic journey, maximizing wind propulsion and minimizing drag caused by unfavorable ocean conditions.

This fleet upgrade is also in line with Airbus’s ambition to boost the A320 family’s production rate to 75 aircraft per month by 2026. Each of the new transatlantic vessels will have the capacity to transport approximately seventy 40-foot containers and six single-aisle aircraft subassembly sets, including wings, fuselage, engine pylons, horizontal and vertical tail planes. This is a notable improvement over the capacity of current cargo ships, which typically handle three to four sets.

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