Aqualines: flying boats developed in
the port of Bayonne

Aqualines‘ project is dedicated to the design, production and operation of a Ground Effect Vehicle (GEV) as a high-speed maritime mobility solution to revolutionize the maritime passenger transport market/sector worldwide, on maritime routes between 300 and 500 km/h.

Created by three partners including Guillaume Catala (CEO of the investment fund Steinberg Protocol and native of Saint Jean de Luz), this innovation is at the crossroads of the aviation and shipbuilding industries. The aim is to build flying ships with a hybrid electric/hydrogen engine, optimizing the carbon footprint.

The Aqualines SAS project is composed of two phases:

  • A first phase of R&D development and construction of a full-scale prototype of an 8-seater model, which will serve as a demonstrator. For this 30-month phase, an R&D workshop will be set up on the Saint-Bernard quay in the port of Bayonne and will employ around thirty people.
  • A second phase of launching the production of the 3-seater model and the development of the full-scale prototype. During this phase, an industrial assembly unit will be built in the port of Bayonne.  
Basque Invest accompagne les entreprises aéronautiques au Pays basque

The Basque Country: a strategic location for Aqualines

Aqualines’ location in the port of Bayonne was particularly strategic for the company. As well as being renowned for its aeronautical industry, the Basque Country also offers major geographical advantages for a company like Aqualines:

  • Proximity to the Adour river and the seaplane base at Biscarrosse for testing
  • Presence of Compositadour, ESTIA (Ecole supérieure des technologies industrielles avancées), and aeronautical subcontractors such as the Lauak group
  • Proximity to the Aerospace Valley world competitiveness cluster based in Bordeaux 
  • Proximity to Spain, with the possibility of testing routes between Bayonne and Bilbao for example. 

The Basque Country, as well as the Nouvelle Aquitaine region and the Aerospace Valley cluster, allow companies in the aeronautics sector to develop easily thanks to regional aid and a trained and qualified workforce. Indeed, the region has renowned engineering schools such as ESTIA, offering training in computer science, energy and mechanical engineering, mechatronics and electronics. 

The presence of major international groups such as Optima Aero, a Canadian company specializing in the reconditioning of helicopter parts, attests to the attractiveness and dynamism of our region for innovative companies in the aeronautical sector.

Basque Invest: an asset for the establishment of Aqualines in the Basque Country

After identifying the needs of the project, Karlos Hébrard, from Basque Invest, assisted the managers of Aqualines on various strategic points for their establishment in the Basque Country. First of all, the choice of the location in the Port of Bayonne was essential in order to create their production workshop. 

Karlos assisted them in the administrative phase, in particular in the request for authorisation to carry out tests on the Adour and at the outlet of the Adour, with the local authorities of the DDTM (departmental directorate of the territories and the sea), as well as at the lake of Biscarrosse. 

Contacts were also made with Compositadour and the Lauak group to identify synergies and potential diversification of activities. 

In addition, project meetings were regularly organized with elected officials and technicians from the Port of Bayonne, the Nouvelle Aquitaine region, the Bayonne Pays Basque Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Basque Country Agglomeration Community, and also with the town planning departments of Bayonne town hall, in order to manage the setting up, financing and launching of Aqualines’ activity in the Basque Country.

Cross-border opportunities were also proposed to meet the needs of the project. 

This establishment initiated by Basque Invest is a success: the company is in full development with the launch of new innovative projects.