The NRC making waves in the ACOA Hull Design Efficiency Challenge

- St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador

From melting ice caps to extreme weather forecasts, climate change is greatly impacting our Earth. Human activities and greenhouse gas emissions that come from burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat and transportation share part of the responsibility. To ensure the longevity of the planet, now is the time to take action and fight this problem.

Back in 2019, the Government of Canada's Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) challenged boat builders, designers and entrepreneurs to come up with hull designs with lower resistance, which would maximize energy efficiency, lower operational costs, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Applicants were asked to submit innovative design plans that met the needs of the Atlantic Canadian inshore fishing industry, as well as Canadian and provincial regulations for commercial fishing vessels while being environmentally friendly and efficient.

ACOA reached out to the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) for our scientific and technical expertise. With our renowned testing facilities, experienced team, and extensive marine and naval architecture knowledge, the Ocean, Coastal and River Engineering Research Centre was perfectly positioned to take part in the evaluation, and to conduct the numerical and physical testing for this challenge.

All hands on deck

After evaluating all the plans submitted, 8 semi‑finalists were chosen. The 8 designs were put through a realistic computer simulation evaluation carried out by the NRC research team in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador. The designs were evaluated to assess the efficiency of each ship design sailing along a virtual seaway. Based on the results of these simulations, 3 finalists were selected for the final phase of the competition.

To validate the results obtained in the previous phase, scale models of the 3 finalist designs were brought to life by the NRC's specialists. Using laminated polystyrene foam core epoxy, fibreglass and electrical sensors, the models underwent tests in the NRC's 200 metre towing tank facility in St. John's. These models were tested for resistance, sinkage and trim—all things necessary for an efficient fishing boat. The physical testing validated the preliminary results obtained through numerical testing, improved the reliability of our results, and lead to a better understanding of how full‑size models will perform.

At the conclusion of this last round of tests, the evaluation committee analyzed the performance results of each finalist model to determine which hull design would be the most effective while having an optimal overall operability—meaning that it would work in real life, be realistic to build and could follow a realistic business plan for commercialization.

Rocking the boat

The collaboration between the NRC and ACOA contributed to advancing fishing boat engineering, while keeping clean technology as a priority. It was all hands on deck in implementing the Hull Design Efficiency Challenge, from NRC researchers and engineers to the applicants, the partners and the evaluation jury.

The challenge‑prize format created the opportunity to collaborate and share expertise among government departments and marine‑industry partners. With the common goal of reducing fuel consumption and carbon emissions, the NRC's focus on clean technology research projects pushed the initiative even further. This shift towards finding the most efficient solutions worked at 2 levels—reducing the environmental impact, while moving towards commercial market viability.

"If we can reduce the amount of greenhouse gas one ship produces by even 2%, and if you multiply that by a fleet of 1,000 ships over the course of one year, that adds up to a significant reduction of emissions for our fragile environment."

Gary Savage, Former Team Lead, Marine Performance & Evaluation, Ocean Coastal and River Engineering Research Centre, NRC

After several months of testing and data analysis of these innovative designs and models, the Honourable Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, announced the grand prize winner in a virtual press conference on May 12, 2021. TriNav Marine Design, a Newfoundland and Labrador‑based company with over 25 years of experience in designing fishing boats, was crowned the grand prize winner of this competition.

The NRC is committed to prioritizing a cleaner future by helping to reduce Canada's reliance on fossil fuels and supporting research and development that encourages sustainability and protects against threats to the environment. Helping boat builders use a design that reduces the amount of fuel a fishing boat burns and the greenhouse gas that comes from it is one of many ways we intend on succeeding in our goal of staying focussed on environmental research and sustainability.

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