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China is to play an important role in the A380 programme by supplying a massive ship to transport elements of the super-jumbo airliner from production sites in Europe to the final assembly line in France.

"We are extremely pleased that China will play a very visible role in the A380 programme," McLeod said. "We are very keen to have Chinese industry be part of the continuing Airbus success story."

The vessel will measure 154 meters long, 24 meters wide and 19 meters deep, and is to be equipped with the largest door ever installed on a Ro-Ro ship. Keel-laying is scheduled for next February, and the ship will be launched in August 2003. Delivery of the completed vessel is planned in March 2004.

Airbus will use the Chinese-built ship for the safe and efficient transportation of A380 aircraft sections to the final assembly site in Toulouse, France from production factories at Hamburg in Germany, Broughton in the United Kingdom, Puerto Real, Spain and Saint Nazaire in France.

The Ro-Ro vessel opens a new sector of Chinese supply for the Airbus production network, and it expands on industrial cooperation between Airbus and Chinese aviation manufacturers that dates back to 1985.

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