Airbus plans to reduce its carbon footprint by commissioning three ships powered partially by wind energy. 

The company announced its partnership with shipowner Louis Dreyfus Armateurs, which will build, own, and operate these highly efficient vessels set to enter service in 2026. 

How the ships work

It’s important to note that these ships will only be partially powered by wind turbines. Fuel engines will support them. 

The ships will feature half a dozen Flettner rotors (wind engines) – rotating cylinders that utilize the Magnus effect to reduce fuel requirements. These are tall, rotating cylinders that will “generate lift at right angles to the wind, moving the ship forward,” according to an Airbus statement. 

There are also two dual-fuel engines running on maritime diesel oil and e-methanol. 

Over time, the proportion of e-methanol in the fuel mix is expected to increase, further reducing emissions. E-methanol is produced by combining green hydrogen and captured carbon dioxide, making it an eco-friendly choice.

To optimize the vessels’ efficiency, routing software will be employed to maximize wind propulsion and avoid drag caused by adverse ocean conditions. The upgraded fleet will not only enhance Airbus’s production capabilities but also provide extra capacity for other transport needs, potentially aiding humanitarian efforts through the Airbus Foundation.

A greener outlook

By incorporating green energy, Airbus expects these vessels to significantly reduce its average annual transatlantic CO2 emissions from 68,000 to 33,000 tons by 2030. 

Additionally, these ships will enhance Airbus’ capacity, allowing the company to increase the production of its A320 aircraft to 75 per month. This eco-friendly initiative aligns with Airbus’s commitment to sustainability and is an important step toward greener and more efficient transportation methods within the aviation industry.

Airbus aims to employ these wind-powered vessels to transport aircraft sub-assemblies between its production facilities, specifically from Saint-Nazaire, France, to its A320 assembly line in Mobile, Alabama.

“Beyond supporting Airbus’ ambitious production ramp-up, the extra capacity could also be used to cater to the transport needs of other Airbus divisions or partners,” the statement reads. 

Maritime transport’s sustainability

The maritime transport industry, responsible for a significant share of global CO2 emissions, faces a pressing need for decarbonization. 

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) the sector produced 858 million tons of CO2 in 2022, surpassing air transport emissions at 739 million tons. 

With 80% of the world’s merchandise trade transported by sea, the rising volume amplifies environmental concerns. Fossil fuels power most ships, necessitating innovative solutions for sustainable maritime trade to achieve net neutrality goals.

Airbus’ innovative move signifies an important step toward sustainable maritime solutions.

About the author

Marce has contributed tech to various prominent publications since 2018, offering a transparent perspective into the tech industry and its effects on its users. She now spends her time developing insightful content for industry players. You know, when she's not gaming or geeking out about the latest fad.