- The emergence of a new generation of shipowners designing ships powered 100% by wind is unique to France. Among the 31 pioneering companies in wind propulsion worldwide, 11 are French.
- Out of these 11 innovative French companies in wind-powered transport, 6 are located in the Nantes and Saint-Nazaire region.
- 42% of the jobs in the wind-powered transport sector are concentrated in the Nantes & Saint-Nazaire region in 2023, a figure projected to reach over 50% by 2030.
Currently, 90% of global merchandise trade is done by sea, accounting for 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions. If no action is taken, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) estimates that CO2 emissions from maritime transport could increase by 50%. Consequently, the IMO has adopted a strategy aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the world fleet by 50% by 2050.
Wind propulsion, an opportunity for France
As the second largest maritime country in the world in terms of surface area, with a historical ecosystem of expertise and pioneering companies – both SMEs and startups – working on developing innovative technologies, France has a significant advantage in wind-powered maritime transport.
- France has 20,000 km of coastline and 10.2 million km2 of territorial waters under its jurisdiction or sovereignty.
- Maritime transport is already a large component of France’s economy.
- In addition to technical and naval expertise, France has historical expertise in the aerospace, shipbuilding, yacht-building, and digital tech sectors, enabling it to position itself among the leaders in maritime decarbonization.
Market share from 20% to 30% for France
Currently, there are 25 large cargo ships equipped with wind propulsion technology worldwide. According to the study conducted by Avisa Partners, around 10,000 ships could be equipped with this technology by 2030, and up to 40,000 by 2050, which would represent 45% of the global fleet. Considering its strengths and technological lead, France could play a significant role in the development of this sector and capture a market share ranging from 20% to 30%, as indicated by the study.
A fully developed ecosystem attracts businesses and jobs to Nantes / Saint-Nazaire
In France, the majority of businesses in the wind propulsion sector are already located in the Nantes & Saint-Nazaire region. This dominant position is confirmed by the study. The Nantes and Saint-Nazaire region possesses numerous advantages to meet the challenge of maritime decarbonization.
Thanks to the historical expertise in shipbuilding and aerospace, combined with more recent knowledge in yacht-building, renewable energy, and digital tech, businesses can find technological solutions to their structural
questions. The region boasts a complete value chain composed of competitiveness clusters, R&D centres, technology centres, engineering schools, networks of economic actors, Nantes Saint-Nazaire Port, and the French branch of the international federation IWSA, known as Wind Ship, which has been based in Nantes since 2019.
In recent years, developers of various promising technological solutions in the field of wind-powered transport have chosen to set up operations in the Nantes & Saint-Nazaire region. Long-standing Saint- Nazaire shipyard Chantiers de l’Atlantique has developed its SolidSail technology. New businesses have also moved here. Airseas, a spin-off from Airbus, decided to relocate their headquarters from Toulouse to Nantes in early 2020. Wisamo, an initiative of the Michelin group, opened in Nantes in July 2022 in the Le Brick building. Neoline, based in Nantes, announced at the beginning of this year the construction of their first wind-powered cargo ship, the Neoliner, set to be launched in mid-2025. Paris-based CWS, which develops rigid wing sails, recently announced plans to open a production plant in Saint-Nazaire. Lastly, at the Ecole Centrale de Nantes, Farwind is initiating the construction of a rotor prototype for ship propulsion.
50% of jobs in the wind-powered transport sector in Nantes & Saint-Nazaire by 2030
All these opportunities demonstrate that wind propulsion is a robust and fast-growing industry with substantial job creation potential, particularly in Nantes & Saint-Nazaire. According to the study, the wind-powered transport sector currently employs 720 people directly in France in 2023, with over a third of them located in Nantes & Saint-Nazaire. By 2030, the number of jobs could increase by 5 to 10 times, with over 50% of the employment in the sector located in the region. The businesses already located here have significant growth prospects in the region by 2030: just among the equipment manufacturers, Airseas in Nantes is expected to create 1,500 jobs, CWS 500 jobs, Chantiers de l’Atlantique 200 jobs, and Wisamo 50 jobs.
Strong involvement of local stakeholders
All of these companies have benefited from the strong support of local stakeholders. The Pays de la Loire region, the Nantes Metropolitan Area, and the Saint-Nazaire Metropolitan Area play a key role in supporting and fostering this ecosystem. The success of Wind for Goods, the unique international event in this sector, is just one example of their dedication.
At Wind for Goods, businesses in the emerging wind propulsion sector, members of the Wind Ship association and public stakeholders issued a resounding call for enhanced support to consolidate the sector’s foundations, empower companies to grow their businesses, hire and train new employees and finance their projects, and ultimately catalyse the rapid deployment of wind propulsion solutions from France. “The sector needs support, as well as spaces for meetings, dialogue, and visibility. Today, at Wind for Goods, as private and public sector actors in the field, we can proudly say that we are ready. We are ready to tackle the challenges involved in developing the wind propulsion sector to enable France to take a leading position,” affirm the 50 exhibitors and institutional representatives at the event.
“We are delighted to host Wind for Goods in Saint-Nazaire, the only international event on wind-powered transport. This event is part of Saint-Nazaire’s industrial history, with our expertise in shipbuilding, aerospace, marine renewable energy, and tomorrow, maritime decarbonization. New companies are joining the wind-powered transport sector and creating jobs in the region. Here, we firmly believe that industry is the solution to the challenges of ecological transition!” says David Samzun, Mayor of Saint-Nazaire.
“The second edition of Wind for Goods demonstrates the uniqueness and strength of wind-powered innovation throughout the Nantes Saint-Nazaire region. Our region has everything it takes to be at the forefront of this sector and boasts a rich ecosystem that creates jobs across the entire value chain, from research and innovation to industrial production. This event also symbolizes Nantes Saint Nazaire’s steadfast commitment to promoting the environmental transformation of the entire maritime industry,” says Johanna Rolland, Mayor of Nantes, President of Nantes Métropole and President of Nantes Saint-Nazaire Développement.
“The urgent need to decarbonize our economy represents both a challenge and a real opportunity for our businesses and industries. By leveraging local historical expertise in shipbuilding and aerospace, as well as the innovation ecosystem, the wind-powered sector is a fantastic illustration of the ongoing industrial transformation in our region,” says Yann Trichard, President of the Nantes St-Nazaire CCI.