ACOA offers $500,000 prize to launch innovative boat designs

ACOA offers $500,000 prize to launch innovative boat designs
The Katie Anne is Wedgeport-built. Challoner says his team made a few tweaks to its classic Wedgeport hull for the design challenge.

A half-a-million-dollar makeover challenge has been gripping Atlantic Canada since last summer—some parts of it anyway. Specifically those parts, and those people, contained within the walls of naval architecture firms. Last July, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency announced a Hull Design Efficiency Challenge which, although perhaps awkwardly named, encouraged shipbuilding companies to design a hull for inshore fishing boats that would cut through the water more easily and cut down on the boat’s fuel usage.

For Fraser Challoner and his team at Wedgeport Boats, one of the three finalists announced in February, the competition was exactly the jostle they needed to put some manpower behind an issue they’d been thinking about for a long time. “It’s always been on the back of our mind,” says Challoner, who co-owns Wedgeport with Skip Muise. His company builds both recreational and commercial fishing vessels.

Wedgeport is up against Allswater Naval Architects, which has offices in St. John’s and Halifax, and TriNav Marine Design Inc., based in St. John’s, for the top spot. Those three firms beat designs from 16 other companies for their spot in the final three. A statement from ACOA said the number of entrants “surpassed expectations.” Challoner says he was also pleasantly surprised to see so many firms dive in.

What the hull?
According to ACOA, there are more than 13,000 diesel-powered inshore fishing boats in Atlantic Canadian waters, and the shape of their hulls determines how effortlessly they glide through the water, and hence how much fuel is used to propel them. A better hull means less fuel, lower costs and lower emissions. And emissions are a concern in the fishing industry. In 2018, researchers from Dalhousie University and the University of British Columbia found that in 2011, emissions from the global fishing industry had jumped nearly 30 per cent from 1990. In 2011, emissions from Canadian fishing vessels made up one per cent of those emissions.

Challoner keeps his cards close to his chest when asked about the design his team submitted and would only say that it’s a tweak here and there to Wedgeport’s existing tried, true and trusted hull design, but he did say that even the slightest tweak can have a big impact on the boat’s drag through the water and hence its fuel impact. He thinks the design contest is a great way to drive innovation in boat design. “I think it’s a really good approach. To me there’s no shame in some friendly competition in the industry.”

The National Research Council will build and test scale models of the hull submitted by each of the three finalists and the winner will receive $500,000 and commit to continue with the research and development needed to get their design to the pilot and pre-commercialization stage. The winner is expected to be announced by July 31.•

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