Marine engineering and design company Navatek LLC has been awarded an $8 million contract by the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research to pursue new science and technology for safer hulls and hybrid-electric propulsion systems for fast boats.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, participated in the announcement of the Navatek contract to design safer hulls and a new propulsion system for the Navy’s small, high speed boats. Navatek is based in Honolulu but has offices in Portland, Maine.

The Navatek office in Portland currently employs 22 people, and this contract will allow the company to add 28 employees to its Portland-based staff, a press release from Collins' office said. Many of the Portland employees are recent graduates of the University of Maine. Navatek has a long working relationship with the university spanning more than 15 years. The Portland office was established in part to enhance Navatek’s partnership with UMaine and the boat building supply chain in the state of Maine, including Front Street Shipyard in Belfast, the release said. The contract will run through 2022.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, participated in the announcement of an $8 million contract awarded to Navatek LLC. Photo courtesy of Sen. Collins office

Navatek is also partnering with the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center to design new materials for prototypes of the new hulls. It plans to use the university’s 60', 3-D printer, the largest in the world, according to report from the Portland Press Herald, to print boat molds.

The research comes in response to a high number of neck and back injuries among small boat operators, including Navy SEALs, resulting from high-speed impacts with waves. Navatek’s research will incorporate new advances in artificial intelligence technologies to mitigate potentially dangerous collisions, according to the Press Herald report.

Navatek will work directly with Front Street Shipyard in Belfast, which will build the prototypes and collaborate on testing at-sea. The science and technology advancements from this research will benefit all the Navy’s small craft programs.

“Maine is home to the best shipbuilders in the world, and our state has long had an integral role in our national security. Navatek’s engineering and research strength combined with Front Street’s composites experience will benefit all of the Navy’s small-craft programs,” said Collins. “As a senior member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, I strongly advocated for the funding that made this research possible and am so proud of the work Navatek and other Maine industries do to support our Navy and our nation’s defense.”

Martin Kao, CEO of Navatek, said in a statement, “Our company is committed the state of Maine, and thanks to Senator Collins’ support, we have been able to partner with the University of Maine and the state’s boatbuilding ecosystem to address the Navy’s new challenges and needs.”

JB Turner, president of Front Street Shipyard, said, “We’ve long believed that our experience with advanced composite construction for boats and ships will provide a key advantage to our Navy, and we are happy to team with Navatek to build our combined capabilities in this area through this new research program.”

Navatek was founded in 1979, focusing on research in hydrodynamics and advanced ship design.