Nova Scotia

Study finds Dartmouth startup's special paint cut fishing boat fuel costs by 20%

A $2.4M study for Transport Canada found a new hull paint developed in Nova Scotia and used on fishing boats reduced fuel consumption by 20 per cent and lowered vessel noise by six to seven decibels.

Graphite Innovation Technologies' graphene-based paint could find 'huge' market

Mo AlGermozi, president of Graphite Innovation Technologies, says the Dartmouth company's anti-fouling hull coating is the most sustainable in the world. (Robert Short/CBC)

A $2.4-million study for Transport Canada found a new hull paint developed in Nova Scotia and used on fishing boats reduced fuel consumption by 20 per cent and lowered vessel noise by six to seven decibels.

The results were released Monday by Graphite Innovation Technologies — the Dartmouth startup company that developed the coating — and Lloyd's Register, the global ship certification society that verified the findings. 

"We're a step ahead in terms of innovative coatings that are very sustainable. I would say they're the most sustainable coatings in the world," said Mo AlGermozi, president of Graphite Innovation Technologies.

The company uses graphene — a carbon-based nanomaterial — as the basis for its strong, slippery and non-toxic hull paint.

It was tested on six Cape Islander lobster fishing boats in Nova Scotia over 18 months.

More efficient and quieter

The study was funded by Transport Canada under a program to reduce underwater noise and greenhouse gas emissions produced by ships.

The graphene coating allows the ship to move through the water with less friction, making it more efficient — and quieter.

Measurements were taken when the hulls were fouled with marine growth, after they were cleaned, and finally, after the hulls were sprayed with the dark grey paint.

The company said its marine paint would cost the average lobster fishing boat $1,000 and would pay for itself within a season in lower fuel costs.

"Per trip, they'll be saving around 70 bucks," said AlGermozi.

Bigger fish to fry

While there are thousands of inshore boats in Atlantic Canada like the types involved in the Transport Canada study, the company is eyeing a much larger market — the worldwide merchant shipping industry.

"The most interesting thing here is the scalability of this technology. What's demonstrated on a fishing boat can be amplified on even bigger vessels. So the bigger the ship, the more savings," said AlGermozi.

"The results really matter because at any time there are at least 50,000 commercial ships right now on the water, which means a lot of fuel consumption, a lot of noise. A small, significant change means it's very big in terms of scalable basis. So it's a huge impact economically and environmentally."

Lloyd's Register lends product credibility

Lloyd's marine and offshore president for the Americas, Kevin Humphreys, said Graphite Innovations has found a new application for graphene, which is used as an additive to concrete.

"We've seen it used in some of the building industry products, but to see it here, used in paint and in marine, not coming from one of the large manufacturers, but from a small incubator and tech startup? I think it's a great story," said Humphreys.

"The market is huge."

Kevin Humphreys with Lloyd's Register says the potential market is huge. (Robert Short/CBC)

Lloyds provided the independent assessment the shipping industry wants. He said they will also want to see the results replicated in larger vessels.

"They want to see good third-party verification using verifiable, peer-reviewed methodologies that can be reproduced. And that gives them that level of comfort as you translate the scientific results into the financial result, which is really key for them as well," he said.

Next up: Testing coatings on bigger ships

Tests on larger ships are planned for 2022.

The Ocean Supercluster — a federally funded marine innovation program — has a separate project that will test the coating on the 67-metre Polar Prince owned by Horizon Maritime, an offshore services company.

AlGermozi predicts "we will be commercializing this technology by mid of next year."

The company has to not only convince the shipping industry, but the large paint companies that could produce the volumes needed if the product does take off.

The end goal is a licensing deal with one of them.

"The market is always controlled by three or four very big coating companies. The idea here is to innovate something very attractive for them to integrate into their logistics and supply channels," said AlGermozi.

Transport Canada declined to comment on the results.

"Although the research is still underway on this project, the department looks forward to reviewing the results once the final report is complete," spokesperson Sara Johnston said in an email to CBC News after this story was published. 

AlGermozi says the results will not change in the final report. 



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.


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