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£163k award for electric workboat R&D project

Published: 21/03/2023

A project on the island of Arran to build and test two prototype electric workboats has secured up to £163,130 investment from HIE.

Arran Workboats Limited (AWL) supplies petrol and diesel powered workboats to many operators of Scotland’s 200 or so fish farms and to companies in other marine industries such as renewables, diving, port authorities, universities and tourism.

The company now wants to develop electric versions of its two workboat models, in a move that could help the country’s transition to net-zero emissions. There is already interest in the idea from companies in several marine sectors.

A key challenge is meeting the stringent safety standards set by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, particularly addressing concerns about fire risk.

AWL is to design and build two prototype electric versions of their twin propulsion workboats, one for each of the boat lengths they currently produce. The prototypes will be used for test and demonstration purposes and to assess the potential for commercial production.

The company is determined to use Scotland-based supply chain companies as much as possible and is already working with another local company on energy requirement calculations.

Morag Goodfellow, HIE’s area manager for Argyll and the Islands, said:

“There is a real drive for Scotland to set an example of how an economy can be decarbonised while maintaining secure well-paid jobs. This requires applied innovation to benefit from new economic opportunities.

“This project by Arran Workboats could help to reduce the carbon impacts, not only of the company itself but of wider marine industries. Successful certification of electric workboats will open up new opportunities for the company as their customers take their own steps towards net zero.

“At the same time, it will sustain vital manufacturing jobs on Arran, where most other employment is tourism based. All of this contributes to wider community and population resilience.

“I am very pleased we are able to support the initiative and very much look forward to continuing to work with the company as the project develops.”

Calum Monteith, director at Arran Workboats Ltd, said:

“We are delighted to receive this support from HIE and look forward to working with the team at HIE to deliver the many benefits of this exciting project.

“We firmly believe our electric propulsion proposition is the future and will help the fish farm companies and other industries reduce their emissions from fossil fuels and help deliver their net zero aspirations.

“There are many benefits from electric propulsion for the operators and will save them money on fuel costs and save time on fueling, servicing and maintenance. Operators will also reduce noise and pollution whilst at sea and eradicate the problems with storing fuel at their base.

“Our HDPE workboats that are built from scratch by our local workforce on Arran are well respected throughout the market and the business has been built over the years on recommendations. We customise our boats to suit each customer’s needs and this will take another step forward with our ability to meet the customer’s needs in relation to net zero/emissions targets.

“We have been researching the electric propulsion market for a couple of years and believe we can deliver a product that would suit our customer’s needs and we have been encouraged greatly by the response from our existing customer base which bodes well for the future.

“We believe that this development will enhance our Island business further and protect and increase jobs on Arran in the years ahead.”