Guest Column: Maine’s Clean Marine Engine Program Helps Fishermen

First published in Working Waterfront and reprinted with permission.


Nick Battista is the director of maritime programs at the Island Institute in Rockland. Island Institute photo.

It’s not every day the government will pay for nearly half of a new engine for your boat. But that is the case for the owners of some commercial vessels. Since 2009, over 100 fishing boats, schooners, ferries, whale watch boats and even a tug boat have been repowered with grants from the Maine Clean Marine Engine Program.
Last spring, Kevin Glover repowered his 1994 Holland 38, replacing the original 692 Detroit diesel with a new Cummins. For Glover, a lobsterman out of Owls Head, upgrading the old, out-of-date engine was important. He likes his boat and how it handles, but wanted to put in an engine that would serve him well into future. Glover said that his old engine was “getting harder to get parts for, harder to work on, it wasn’t economical, and it consumed more fuel.”
When you rely on your engine to make your living, reliability is important. “Missing two or three days at the height of the season hurts. You have to go when the getting is good,” said Glover. The new engine will have a lot less down time and need minimal repairs. In addition, Glover’s fuel consumption is down 10-12% since he repowered and that doesn’t hurt either.
The program funds up to 40% of the purchase and installation of a new engine that meets EPA standards. Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) developed the program using Diesel Emission Reduction Act funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Clean Marine Engine Program was the first in the nation to specifically target older marine engines.
To date, $2,023,333 has been spent to repower over 100 vessels thereby reducing harmful exhaust emissions by 54.16 tons/year of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and 3.63 tons/year of diesel particulate matter. “The Clean Marine Engine Program has been a successful and popular program that benefits air quality, fishermen and boatyards,” said Lynne Cayting, who developed and runs the program. “DEP in partnership with the Maine Marine Trades Association has promoted early replacement of diesel engines — before the end of their useful life — to accelerate engine turnover and reduce harmful exhaust emissions.”
    The program is designed and funded to improve air quality by reducing NOx and diesel particulate emissions. Nitrogen oxides contribute to the formation of ground level ozone which can irritate the respiratory system; diesel particulate emissions contribute to respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses. Diesel exhaust is also a known carcinogen;  prolonged exposure has been linked to increased rates of lung cancer.  
Since the Maine Clean Marine Engine Program is focused on air quality improvements, the requirements are designed to ensure the cost-effectiveness of the NOx reductions; this means that some engines are not eligible. The engine must have at least three more years of useful life before it is scheduled to be repowered or replaced. A good cost estimate for the new engine and installation as well as an estimated annual fuel bill are also required. Finally, working with a boatyard ensures the old engine is properly destroyed and the paperwork is in order.   

The State’s Clean Marine Engine Program provides up to 40% of the cost of a new, clean engine for fishermen, which will reduce fuel costs and diminish harmful exhaust emissions.

    Repowering an old, dirty engine can often result in reduction  of NOx or particulate emissions by one-half. “A big focus for this program is anybody who has a 2-cycle or tier 0 engine. Repowering these engines really makes a big difference on the impact to the environment,” says Greg Sanborn, the service manager at Billings Diesel and Marine Services in Stonington.
Glover worked with Journey’s End Marina in Rockland to get his new engine. He said that the paperwork was fairly simple once he had talked through things with DEP and Journey’s End. According to Sanborn, who has helped with almost 30 repowers, “The way this program has been implemented, the application is easy. It is not a difficult form, it is pretty straightforward. It’s a great program and the funding has worked well.”
   Depending on its size, an engine for a lobster boat costs between $40,000 and $80,000. The cost of installation varies with both the boat and the engine but typically runs between $25,000 and $40,000. Replacing the engine is a good opportunity to do other significant upgrades as well, whether it is replacing the stuffing box, shaft or hydraulic systems.
    Because of the distribution of funds Maine received from the Volkswagen Diesel Emissions Settlement the Maine Clean Marine Engine Program will see an increase in 2018 in the amount of funding available. More information on themprogram can be foundeat Information about the Volkswagen Diesel Emissions Settlement can be found at