Wind propulsion technology company Norsepower has signed one of its biggest contracts with an agreement to supply its rotor sails to each of the three RoRo vessels being constructed for Louis Dreyfus Armateurs (LDA) for charter by aircraft manufacturer Airbus

The agreement, which Norsepower described as the biggest ever made in the mechanical sails market, will see six of the rotor sails installed on each vessel in the fleet, alongside the use of the company’s routing software to optimise journeys with data on adverse ocean conditions with the potential to increase drag. 

Mathieu Muzeau, transport and logistic general manager at LDA, said: “While the IMO has set challenging targets to bring shipping to net-zero, wind propulsion is considered as a viable element of the sustainable energy mix for seagoing ships. 

“We are proud to be part of the energy transition through our partnership with Norsepower to offer innovative solutions and sustainably driving change.” 

Norsepower’s rotor sail technology is a modern version of the Flettner rotor concept, using electric power to turn the cylinder-shaped rotors and push air behind to create additional thrust for a vessel. 

Airbus fleet
Airbus has commissioned shipowner Louis Dreyfus Armateurs to build, own and operate the new vessels. Credit: Airbus.

The agreement also includes the use of the company’s Sentient Control system, making Airbus the first to charter a ship using the technology, which allows for each rotor to be controlled individually to optimise efficiency by managing aerodynamic interactions between each “sail” and the vessel itself. 

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Tuomas Riski, CEO of Norsepower, described the deal as “a game changer for the whole auxiliary wind propulsion industry”, he said: “We are honoured that the first charterer to utilise this advanced control system is Airbus, the foremost expert in aerodynamics in the world.” 

LDA says the fleet, which will be used by Airbus to transport aircraft parts between France and its aircraft assembly line in Alabama, US, will generate around half of the CO2 emissions of the current fleet by 2030.