Nova Scotia

N.L. firm's battery-powered fishing boat wins $500K efficiency competition

TriNav Marine of St. John's has won the grand prize in a hull design efficiency competition through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. The company says its design can lower fuel consumption by up to 45 per cent.

TriNav Marine of St. John's beat out designs by 2 Nova Scotia companies

ACOA's hull design efficiency challenge was open to commercial and non-commercial organizations registered to do business in Atlantic Canada. (Courtesy National Research Council of Canada)

A marine engineering company based in Newfoundland and Labrador has won the grand prize of $500,000 in a federal government competition to design a more full-efficient inshore fishing boat in Atlantic Canada.

TriNav Marine Design of St. John's was one of three finalists to develop a hull that lowers operating costs and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

It ultimately beat designs submitted by Wedgeport Boats Ltd. of Lower Wedgeport, N.S., and Allswater Marine of Bedford, N.S.

"We could see as much as 40 to 45 per cent reduction in fuel consumption and therefore emissions," TriNav director Rick Young said during a virtual news conference Wednesday.

Scale models built, tested

The three finalists had scale models of their ships built and tested at a National Research Council facility in St. John's.

Models with sensors on board were tested in a 200-metre-long towing tank to confirm results from the computer simulations.

The winning design looks similar to current hulls, but reduces friction, eliminates hull attachments and uses high-efficiency propellers.

It also incorporates a hybrid propulsion system with high-efficiency diesel generators that provide power to battery banks that drive the boat.

Young is director of TriNav Marine Design based in St. John's. (CBC)

Young said it will have the necessary strength.

"The intent of the hybrid system is that the batteries, the system will be designed so that it can deliver the power it needs not only to propel the vessel through the water, but also to carry all the necessary functions on board," he said.

"So it's just a matter of design. It will be designed to meet that requirement for sure."

Up to 2 years before design goes to market

Asked what he will do with the prize money, Young replied: "Well, we're going to spend it."

"A design development is a very time-consuming and costly process, and of course, this is a very important project for our company and for the industry," he added.

The company still has more detailed design and engineering ahead. It will build a model, develop hull moulds and get regulatory approval from Transport Canada before taking its design to market.

Young predicts that could take up to two years. The next step is convincing fishermen to buy into the design.

Payback 'quickly gained'

Right now, there are 14,000 diesel-powered vessels in Atlantic Canadian waters, according to DFO.

Young said the hull designed by TriNav will be comparable in size and materials with current designs and will not cost more to build.

The diesel battery system, however, will be more expensive than the diesel engines in use today.

"There'll be an incremental increase in total construction cost," said Young. "But of course, with a payback to the owner year over year over year, that moderate increase in cost will be quickly gained back by the owner."

Reducing the carbon footprint

While the competition was for a 15-metre multipurpose vessel, the target market is the region's lucrative lobster fishery which supplies Canada's largest seafood export.

The biggest market is in southwest Nova Scotia where more than 1,000 boats fish in rough weather in winter months.

Henry Demone, a former CEO of High Liner Foods, chaired the selection committee for the competition, which was sponsored by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

Former High Liner Foods CEO Henry Demone. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

He said TrivNav's design is more efficient but has similar characteristics to the type of vessels that fishermen use today.

"We didn't want to choose a winner that fishermen would have difficulty considering when they upgrade their vessels," Demone told reporters. "Commercialization is an important part of the contest."

Demone said as lobster boat designs have evolved, they've become deeper and "beamier" — or wider — but not more efficient from a fluid dynamics perspective.

"The winner's designs will be the first step in improving the carbon footprint of this important industry and we expect more to come in terms of propulsion systems," he said.


Paul Withers


Paul Withers is an award-winning journalist whose career started in the 1970s as a cartoonist. He has been covering Nova Scotia politics for more than 20 years.