A Look At The Ships Airbus Uses To Move Aircraft Parts


The ships that Airbus uses aren’t exactly what you’d imagine when mentioning the phrase ‘aircraft carrier’. However – that’s exactly what the company’s ships do in order to move components to where they need to be. Airbus and its production facilities around the world utilize several vessels to move components between the sites at Broughton, Hamburg, Mobile, Tianjin, and Toulouse. Some are external charters while others are exclusively part of the Airbus family.

As is quite obvious by what is painted across the side of the ship, the vessel ‘Ville de Bordeaux’ has been shipping A380 components. Image: Terry Whalebone via Wikimedia Commons

Ville de Bordeaux

The Ville de Bordeaux is a 5,200 deadweight tonnage, roll-on and roll-off (ro-ro) vessel. The number doesn’t refer to its weight but rather the weight in cargo it can support. The ship measures 154.15 metres long, 24 metres wide and 21.85 metres deep.

According to Airbus, the Ville de Bordeaux features the largest ever watertight stern door on a ro-ro vessel (22 metres by 14 metres). The vessel incorporates special features “tailored to the loading and transport of aircraft components”. These include

  • A stern mooring system
  • Cargo hold environment control
  • Lashing arrangements

In its process of building the A380 superjumbo, Airbus has the vessel go between sites in the UK, Germany, France and Spain to the French city port of Bordeaux. From here components will go to Toulouse via river barge and road transportation.

The Ville de Bordeau was built in Nanjing, China.

The Mobile Express

The Mobile Express crosses the Atlantic Ocean once per month, carrying major A320 Family components including fuselage sections, wings and pylons, as well as vertical and horizontal stabilizers.

The Mobile Express’ is focused on transatlantic journies. Photo: Airbus

This ship heads to the coastal city of Mobile, Alabama – site of Airbus’ American assembly facility. Airbus says that the name of the ship was chosen based on the contributions of Airbus’ logistics and transport community, the ship’s owner, and more than 300 Airbus employees at Saint-Nazaire and Mobile.

This vessel has a total load capacity of 5,600 tonnes and a length of 180 metres. It has a cruise speed of 19 knots which is roughly 35km/h. The Mobile Express was built in Italy.


River barges and other ships

And then there are other, less prominent vessels such as river barges and chartered ships. The barges are specially designed to carry aircraft components on the penultimate part of their voyage along the Garonne River. These go from the port city of Bordeaux to the river harbour of Langon. From Langon, aircraft components are transferred to the final assembly line in Toulouse via road transportation.

River barges take wings to Toulouse. Photo: Airbus

We’ve also seen photos of other ships like the BBC Fuji and BBC Haren transporting Airbus aircraft components. These ships are part of a company called BBC Chartering. The company operates more than 150 “modern, multipurpose heavy lift vessels.”

The 200th shipset for Airbus’ A320 final assembly line (FAL) in Tianjin, China, being loaded on to the containership “COSCO Hope” at the Port of Hamburg. Transport by sea to Tianjin lasts around 40 days. Photo: Airbus
The BBC Fuji having a JetBlue A320 vertical stabilizer loaded on to its deck. Photo: Airbus

With Airbus having its production facilities and final assembly lines dispersed all over the world, components need to safely make their way from one facility to another. These water vessels are part of that journey.

Did you know about these Airbus vessels before? Let us know in the comments.