France’s Neoline Armateur has sealed the first order for its wind-powered ro-ro design.

The company has signed up for one new Neoliner vessel at Turkey’s yacht specialist RMK Marine thanks to some big-name backers.

The journey to this point has been a long one, with the ship first sketched in 2011.

Delivery has been delayed from an initial target of 2021, and the yard switched from France’s Neopolia Mobility. No firm delivery date has been revealed, but the last target was 2024.

The €60-plus ($65m) project is co-financed by liner giant CMA CGM, Ademe Investissement, Corsica Ferries and Louis Hardy in the form of equity.

Banque des Territoires is providing €3.8m in bonds and the Pays de la Loire Region has handed over a “reimbursable advance” of €1.3m.

Bank financing is coming from Credit Industriel et Commercial (CIC).

The SolidSail rigging system is being supplied by French shipbuilder Chantiers de l’Atlantique.

Emilie Espanet, director of the CMA CGM Energy Fund, said: “Several technologies will have to coexist to build the decarbonised propulsion solutions of tomorrow”.

“This is why the CMA CGM Group, thanks to its €1.5bn Fund for Energies, wanted to become a partner of Neoline, whose ro-ro sailing transport project seems to us to be extremely promising,” she added.

Big fuel saving

The vessel will be mainly propelled by its 3,000 square metre sail area.

For port manoeuvres, the ro-ro will come with an auxiliary engine and marine gasoil generators.

Loading capacity will be 1,200 lane metres, or 265 teu, up to a weight of 5,300 tonnes.

The 136-metre Neoliner will save more than 80% of fuel compared to a conventional vessel.

The first route will connect St Nazaire in France to the US east coast, passing through St Pierre and Miquelon, at 11 knots.

The crew will number 13, but can be increased to 20 for additional trainees and technicians.

The ship will also accommodate 12 passengers in six double cabins.

Neoline chief executive Jean Zanuttini said: “Here we are, the first Neoliner will come to life.”

“For the whole team Neoline, its founders, its technical partners, its customers and its financiers, this announcement is the accomplishment of a passionate, persevering and determined work,” he added.

And Zanuttini said: “Wind is certainly intermittent, but it is more predictable than the prices and availability of many other energies.”

The company aims to encourage the creation of an entire fleet powered by wind.

French shipowner Sogestran took a stake in Neoline in 2020.

Other backers include shippers such as Renault, Manitou, Beneteau Group, Jas Hennessy & Co, Michelin Group and Clarins.