The Airbus A380 program has reached a new milestone with the christening of a roll-on and roll-off sea (ro-ro) vessel built for the transportation of components of the aircraft. The vessel was named “Ville De Bordeaux” at a ceremony held today in Nanjing in East China’s Jiangsu Province.

The 5,200-dwt roll-on and roll-off vessel measures 154.15 metres long, 24 metres wide and 21.85 metres deep and features the largest ever watertight stern door on a ro-ro vessel (22 metres by 14 metres). It has a cargo deck space of 6,720 square metres and holds as much as 1,805 lanes metres. It incorporates special features tailored to the loading and transport of aircraft components like stern mooring system, cargo hold environment control, lashing arrangements and control of accelerations.

Airbus will charter the vessel to transport A380 sections by sea from Airbus sites in the UK, Germany, France and Spain to the French city port of Bordeaux. The vessel is built by the Nanjing-based Jinling Shipyard and commissioned by FRET/Cetam, a subsidiary of Louis Dreyfus Armateurs (LDA) of France, and Leif Hoegh of Norway.

Specially designed barges will then carry the components on the penultimate part of the voyage along the Garonne River, from Bordeaux to the river harbour of Langon. Here the aircraft components will be transferred to road trailer to continue the final part of the journey to the final assembly line in Toulouse.

The 555-seat A380, Airbus' newest and largest aircraft, will enter service in 2006. It offers unequalled passenger comfort, unrivalled operating costs and state-of-the-art technology to minimise noise and emissions. An evolution of aviation technology, the A380 promises to ease congestion at major airports by transporting more people more efficiently than ever. To date, 11 customers have announced orders and commitments for a total of 129 A380s.

“Suppliers worldwide have taken part in the development of the A380 programme and China in particular is making a very visible contribution,” said Philippe Delmas, Airbus Executive Vice President Government Relations, Communication and External Affairs, at the christening ceremony. “The Republic’s involvement in the A380 program opened up a new chapter in the co-operation between Airbus and China.”

Chinese government officials, Mr Philippe Louis-Dreyfus, Chairman and CEO of LDA group, and Mr Westye Hoegh, Chairman of the Board of Leif Hoegh, as well as envoys from France and other European countries attended the christening ceremony.

In April, the vessel will be delivered to the city of Yizheng on the Yangtze River, sailing downstream to Shanghai before eventually arriving in Europe.

Airbus is a leading aircraft manufacturer with the most modern and comprehensive family of airliners on the market, ranging in capacity from 100 to more than 500 seats. Airbus has delivered almost 3,500 aircraft to 210 customers and operators worldwide, and boasts a healthy delivery backlog of well over 1,400 aircraft. At current rates, this represents some five years of future production. With an annual turnover of euros 19.3 billion in 2003, Airbus is a global company with design and manufacturing facilities in France, Germany, the UK and Spain, as well as subsidiaries in the US, China and Japan. Headquartered in Toulouse, France, Airbus is a joint EADS company with BAE Systems.