An Ontario naval engineer accused of trying to pass secrets to China may have been in possession of information about Canada’s underwater energy technology, says one security expert.

Police allege Qing Quentin Huang, 53, a Canadian citizen from Waterdown, Ont., was attempting to communicate with China to supply information related to elements of Canada’s shipbuilding strategy, including plans to build warships and icebreakers.

Huang was an employee of Lloyd’s Register, a company subcontracted by Irving Shipbuilding Inc. that was selected to build combat vessels as part of a 30-year, $33-billion project.

Security expert Eric Margolis said Huang’s employer carries out certifications for oil platforms and underwater pipelines.

“This is an area where China is not strong, and is very interested,” Margolis told CTV’s Canada AM on Monday. “If the Chinese government was behind this, I speculate that’s what it would be looking for.”

Margolis said Canada is not considered to be on the leading edge in marine technology. “Nevertheless, the Chinese have for decades helped themselves to technological information from around the world. Other countries do it too.”

Suspect approved marine designs

A spokesperson for Lloyd’s Register said Huang’s role at the company was to approve marine designs.

Communications director Mark Stokes said under its contract with Irving Shipbuilding, Lloyd’s Register was beginning an appraisal on the design for the Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships, but noted that Huang did not have direct access to information on the project.

“As he did not have security clearance, Mr. Huang was not authorized to have access to any classified or controlled information in Lloyd’s Register Canada Ltd’s possession,” Stokes told CTV Toronto in an email.

Stokes said the company is assisting the RCMP and Huang has been suspended until the matter is resolved.

RCMP said they believe Huang was working on his own, which Margolis said is not unusual in espionage cases.

“The government is doing its job, but it’s very hard to prevent this kind of person from just offering his services,” he said.

Suspect faces life sentence

Huang is charged under the Security Information Act with two counts of attempting to communicate classified information to a foreign entity and faces a maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted.

He appeared before a judge Sunday and will be held in custody for a bail hearing on Dec. 4.