Clean Green Marine OPP 2022

Port and town of Queen Charlotte, surrounded by forest, in Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, Canada. Credit: Chris Babcock from iStock Images.

Discussions around cleaner fuel sources for transportation focus on electric vehicles: cars, trucks, SUVs — even tractor trailers.

But in coastal communities, where travelling on water is essential to jobs, commerce and many elements of everyday life, finding low-carbon alternatives for boats is a significant challenge.

And these same communities face the impacts of climate change, which have severe consequences for coastal ecosystems and Indigenous Peoples’ ways of living

Turning the Tide: Exploring Clean Marine Propulsion in Coastal Indigenous Communities is addressing this challenge as part of PICS’ Opportunity Project Program (OPP).  

The challenges of ocean-based travel are many. Marine travel is constantly changing, for instance, because of weather and currents. And it’s impossible to design one-size-fits-all low- or no-emissions solutions because of the variety of work vessels.

As well, cleaner marine propulsion may look like a spectrum of options, from electric to hydrogen cells to biodiesel. Would hybrid power work for fishing boats, for example, but full electric for water taxis?

“We’re hoping with this research to figure out what kinds of vessels fall where on that spectrum and then look at it from a variety of perspectives: economic feasibility, technological feasibility, lifespan,” explains Cliff Atleo Jr., one of the project’s principal investigators.

Researchers will also examine greenhouse gas emissions and what various power sources contribute to climate change; for example, it doesn’t make sense to run electric vessels if they’re being charged from a system that gets its power by burning diesel fuel.

Other pieces of the project will include a look at people’s behaviour, awareness and potential acceptance of electric boats or vessels powered by non-conventional means — especially as they witness the obvious effects of climate change.

“How you feel about an electric vehicle now versus 10 years ago, versus 15 years ago,” Atleo says, “might be different.”

Opportunity Project: Began Jan. 15, 2022 / Project duration: two years

Research Partners

Principal Investigators

Clifford Atleo

Clifford Atleo

Assistant professor, Resource and Environmental Management, SFU

John Axsen

Jonn Axsen

Associate Professor, Resource and Environmental Management


Sarah Ozog

Sarah Ozog

PhD candidate, Resource and Environmental Management, SFU

Solution Seekers

  • Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council
  • Skidegate Band Council