[singlepic id=240 w=320 h=240 float=left]Marine-based tourism operator Frankland Island Cruises have received a $250,000 State Government grant to design and install a clean, quiet and energy efficient drive system for their vessels – a first for Far North Queensland tourism industry.

Treasurer and Minister for Employment and Economic Development Andrew Fraser said that the Cairns business would carry out the work thanks to funding under the Queensland Government’s Business and Industry Transformation Incentives (BITI) scheme.

“Frankland Island Cruises will replace their vessel’s diesel powered engine with an innovative, cost effective and environmentally sustainable electric drive and will work with a number of Cairns businesses to develop the key components,” Mr Fraser said.

Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt said this would be the first time this solution would be used in a large tourism vessel in Far North Queensland.

“It’s great to see a local operator taking steps to be more innovative and increase their environmental sustainability – and what’s more they’re collaborating with other local businesses to achieve this,” Mr Pitt said.

“As we move towards a low-carbon economy, it’s great to see industry leaders like Frankland Island Cruises aware of the implications and realise the opportunities this will present.

“Through this grant, not only will they become more environmentally friendly, but also boost their competitiveness, lift industry standards and create jobs for Queenslanders.”

Frankland Island Cruises Managing Director Ron Cusick said while other solutions were currently available for yachts and smaller electric boats, the costs associated with down time, compliance for survey and complexities with backup systems had deterred any similar installations for large commercial vessels.

“Due to our route, low speed river journey and short open sea crossing, Frankland Island Cruises is fortunate to be in a unique position to overcome these sorts of challenges,” said Mr Cusick.

“By using smart, innovative technology we expect our Eco Marine Drive System to deliver environmental and economic benefits not only to our business, but also the marine and tourism industries and the region as a whole,” he said.

“We anticipate a potential saving of up to 90 per cent on diesel fuel and greatly reduced maintenance costs.

“The absence of diesel exhaust fumes and substantially reduced noise levels will also provide greater passenger comfort and less disturbance of wildlife.”

Mr Cusick said the system would give the company the opportunity to become a market leader in environmentally sustainable marine-based tourism in Australia and was confident about potential interest and take-up by other operators and industries.

“Current market research indicates our Eco Marine Drive System could be sold and installed at the same cost as a conventional diesel powered engine,” said Mr Cusick.

“As technology advances, a future version of the system could be developed to enable boats to travel longer distances,” he said.

He added the drive system could be recharged in eight hours or less using a combination of solar panels and mains power from the jetty, with independent outboard motors on hand as an emergency backup.

Mr Cusick said the Australian Institute for Commercialisation had been instrumental in assisting the company with market research, business strategy and funding.

“We’ve been working closely with the Australian Institute for Commercialisation’s Innovation Coaching program to identify ‘beyond tomorrow’ business model options and we are now looking at innovation as a key driver for our business,” said Mr Cusick.

Treasurer Fraser said the latest round of BITI funding had targeted innovative, clean and green Queensland businesses, with eight companies receiving a combined total of $1,014,533 and five of those coming from regional Queensland.

Mr Fraser said the State Government introduced the BITI Scheme in 2007, with incentives ranging from $30,000 to $250,000.

“Since 2007, 29 progressive Queensland companies have been approved for a total grant value of almost $5.2 million,” he said.

“BITI funds projects that will forge a diverse economy, through helping firms boost their competitiveness.”

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