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STONINGTON — Bright sunshine vied for attention with a chilly spring breeze last Thursday as the crew at Billings Diesel & Marine Service eased the University of New Hampshire’s 50-foot Gulf Challenger out of the Travelift slip and into the waters of Deer Island Thorofare. The rugged blue-and-white research vessel spent the winter in the Billings shop on Moose Island. Its old two-cycle diesel engines were replaced with a pair of 660 horsepower Caterpillar C-12 ACERT diesels. The new engines meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) strict Tier 2 requirements for reduced exhaust emissions of nitrogen oxides (NO2) and particulate matter. The boat’s diesel-powered generator also was replaced.
Gulf Challenger was the 14th, and possibly the last, boat to be repowered with low-emission diesels at the Billings yard with 50 percent of the cost paid for by the federal government under an EPA program established under the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) applied for grants to finance the program from both the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act and from economic stimulus funds appropriated under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Billings replaced its first engine under the program — swapping a new electronically controlled Caterpillar C9 for a tired Detroit Diesel in a 40-foot lobster boat from Tenants Harbor — in the fall of 2009. Since then, according to Billings Service Manager Greg Sanborn, the yard has replaced engines under the DEP program in “a mixture of workboats,” among them the Maine Sea Coast Mission’s 75-foot Sunbeam V, launched in 1995, and the Isle au Haut ferry Mink.
“It’s been a good program,” Sanborn said. “There’s been no real issues.”