The federal government is awarding Aspin Kemp & Associates $340,000 to pursue development of a hybrid lobster fishing vessel.
The Montague-based engineering company showed off its new diesel-electric hybrid model for the first time earlier this month at a boat show in Moncton. The vessel is designed for inshore lobster fishing.
On Wednesday, the government announced it would fund the project through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, saying it would help spur clean growth in the region.
Aspin Kemp has developed hybrid systems for large vessels in the past. But CEO Jason Aspin said the company has been struggling to enter the small boat market for more than a decade.
“We’ve always looked at the small boat market as a place where we’d like to work,” he said. “But it’s taken a while to get the technology to the point where that kind of base price makes sense on a smaller vessel.
“Having worked in this space for 15 years now, we feel like we’ve gotten to this point.”
Aspin said larger boats often have vessel-specific requirements that end up driving up costs. But the company is trying to “totally standardize” things for lobster boats, which would help bring the price down.
He said hybrid boats will be more expensive than non-hybrid competitors, but the price difference will be as small as possible.
“We’re trying to demonstrate that it will save the equivalent amount of fuel over a short period of time,” he said.
Reduction of emissions
The boat is powered by batteries made in Prince Edward Island. The technology and design of the systems are all done locally.
Aspin Kemp has also worked with another company on a retrofit solution so that older boats can also fit the hybrid system. Aspin said the company aims to start carrying out renovations within the next six months.
He said the fishing industry is increasingly aware of the need to reduce its carbon footprint and there is a “real hunger” for solutions such as hybrid boats.
“The small boat market is responsible for a lot of the emissions that we see and … there really needs to be a solution to reduce emissions and eventually get to zero emissions,” he said. “So as a company, we’re focusing on that market now.”
Prince Edward Island is also providing a grant of $20,000.
Aspin said the company plans to look at alternative zero-carbon-footprint fuels, such as hydrogen and ammonia, in the future.