First Fixed Suction Sails Deployed on RoRo Chartered to Airbus

RoRo with suction sails
RoRo departed forthe Atlantic crossing with the first suction sails deployed (Bound4blue)

Published Mar 4, 2024 7:09 PM by The Maritime Executive


As interest continues to grow in wind-assisted propulsion, Spanish manufacturer Bound4blue reports it has achieved another milestone with the first fixed suction sails deployed on a RoRo. The vessels owned by Louis Dreyfus Armateurs and operating for Airbus departed Saint Nazaire in France on March 3 on its first Atlantic voyage with the eSAILs.

The 5,200-dwt Ville de Bordeaux, built in 2004, is fitted with three 72-foot tall (22-meter) fixed suction sails. The bases for the sails were installed in Poland in November 2023, and the verticalization maneuver and connection of the suction sails was completed in less than two days last week while the vessel was in Vigo, Spain. Used to transport A320 components from Europe for final assembly at the aircraft manufacturer's U.S. factory in Mobile, Alabama, the vessel is expected to arrive on March 19 completing the first trip with the sails.

“This installation is our fourth ship project and the first of a fixed suction sail on a ro-ro vessel,” explained David Ferrer, CTO of Bound4blue. “It proves that suction sails can be fitted on ships with a high weather deck and large windage area meeting all required stability criteria.” 

The installation of the eSAILs is part of the group’s efforts to reduce emissions and is a critical test for the technology. According to Bound4blue, each sail will generate six to seven times more lift than a conventional sail thanks to an electric-powered air suction system that helps the airflow to re-adhere to the sail. All this force allows for the reduction of the load on the ship’s main engines. 

“The sails look fantastic, and we look forward to seeing them in action,” said Mathieu Muzeau, Transport & Logistic General Manager at LDA. 

The two companies have demonstrated their interest in wind-assisted propulsion. They participated in the validation tests of the kite system which was recently acquired by Japan’s “K” Line developed by rival Airseas. The two companies also announced they have placed an order in China to build three larger RoRos that will be fitted with Norsepower wind rotors. It was the largest order to date for rotors.

Further demonstrating the growing acceptance of wind-assisted propulsion, Bound4blue highlights the range of orders it is working on and upcoming installations. The juice carrier Atlantic Orchard (35,584 dwt), sailing for global agricultural trader Louis Dreyfus Company, will be fitted with four 26-metre-high (85-foot) eSAILs. Odfjell of Norway is also gearing up to retrofit the eSAIL system this year on a chemical tanker, the first such vessel to harness this technology. 

Eastern Pacific Shipping of Singapore also very recently agreed to install three 22-meter eSAILs on its 50,332-dwt Pacific Sentinel (built in 2019) while Marubeni Corporation this year will install four 26-meter-high eSAILs on the 84,860-dwt Kamsarmax bulker Crimson Kingdom (built 2016). The first newbuild, a combined cargo/passenger vessel for Tahitian shipowner SNA THUA'A PAE (SNA) will also install a single 22-meter-high eSAIL on the vessel scheduled for delivery in 2026.

Bound4blue expects at least a 10 percent saving from the use of the suction sails. The growing number of installations adds to the data and highlights the industry’s growing interest in wind-assisted propulsion.