Airbus project cargo RoRo fleet adds fuel-saving kite

TOULOUSE: AirSeas, an Airbus engineering spinoff that has developed an automated kite to tow large commercial ships, is to apply its parafoil technology on the aerospace company’s RoRo fleet that delivers large aircraft parts to production sites in Europe and the US.

Launched with the flick of a switch, the ‘SeaWing’ kite deploys, unfurls and operates autonomously while collecting real-time meteorological and oceanic data to provide a 20 percent improvement in vessel fuel economy. When no longer required, the system automatically refolds and recovered for reuse.

Capable of being installed during the time it takes to make a port call, Airbus says the technology can revolutionize the maritime transport industry and expects to reduce its overall industrial environmental footprint by 8,000 tons of CO2 per year.

“We are very proud that Airbus has confirmed its confidence in the SeaWing system after seeing our test results first-hand on their own ship,” explained AirSeas founder and former Airbus executive Vincent Bernatets. “This first RoRo vessel installation opens the way for further pioneering deals on container ships, bulk freighters and ferries.”

In 2002 the Louis Dreyfus Armateurs group and Leif Höegh group (Norway) set up a joint venture called ‘Fret-CETAM’ to handle the logistics of moving A380 parts and other aircraft components between Pauillac, France, Hamburg, Cadix Spain, Mostyn UK, Naples and Tunisia.

The 20-year contract with Airbus included the construction of three RoRo vessels designed and delivered by two shipyards in China and Singapore named: Ville de Bordeaux, City of Hamburg and Ciudad de Cadiz.

In a decision that might have foretold Brexit, the manufacturer didn’t think it needed a fourth vessel – perhaps named City of Broughton for the company’s UK facility that makes all its aircraft wings.

In addition to delivering wing sections to Mobile, Alabama the three vessels also transport wings and fuselage sections from Northern Germany, Spain and UK to the French city port of Bordeaux where they are carried by river barge or road to the Airbus final assembly line in Toulouse.