ExtremeOcean To Develop Prototype

Peter Gifford may have trouble finding a place to launch the working prototype of his new offshore supply vessel, even though it’s only nine metres long. The problem: it’s 16 metres deep — same height as, for instance, an IMAX screen. Gifford is founder and CEO of ExtremeOcean Innovation Inc., a St. John’s startup that is developing a radical new vessel to serve the burgeoning market of offshore wind turbines. The TranSPAR Craft looks like a New York taxi on top of a telephone pole, and the unusual design is one reason it has been lauded internationally and received three rounds of funding from Carbon Trust of Great Britain. Offshore wind farms are becoming more and more common in Britain, Germany and other European countries. But it’s difficult to serve the offshore turbines because high waves surrounding them make it difficult for maintenance crews to move from supply ships to ladders at the base of the turbines. So Gifford and co-founder Brian Veitch three years ago came up with a design that solved the problem. The TranSPAR Craft features a compartment on the surface large enough for eight people, including two people who operate the boat, and equipment. And beneath this craft, there is a 10.5-metre shaft with the engine and propeller at the bottom. That shaft stabilizes the vessel in waves as high as three metres and is the reason TransSPAR is drawing strong interest from the wind energy industry. Though there are a few options in bringing the product to market, Gifford said that the most likely route is for a large British company to buy the intellectual property and manufacture the craft. “We’re a tech development company that could be a manufacturing company if we had to, but what we’re good at is producing innovative designs,” said Gifford. The company, which works out of the Genesis Centre at Memorial University, has proven, in its short history, just how good it is at design. Two years ago, it was one of 450 entrants in the Carbon Trust’s Offshore Wind Accelerator Access Competition, and was one of 13 finalists. The Carbon Trust was impressed enough to give three rounds of investment to ExtremeOcean and introduce the company to some of its current partners, which include Scottish Power, Statoil of Norway and the German energy giants E.ON and RWE AG. The amounts of funding are undisclosed, but they were substantial. ExtremeOcean has completed trials with a scale model, which validated the concept. Next, it must seek certain regulatory approvals and build a working prototype, the manufacture of which will likely be carried out in Atlantic Canada. Gifford, who collaborates with colleague Dean Pelley on business development, said it will probably take a year to build the prototype, after which the company will spend about eight months in prototype validation.