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Cyclops Marine 2023 November - LEADERBOARD

Global research identifies portfolio of existing technologies to help reduce carbon emissions

by ICOMIA 22 Jan 01:46 PST
ICOMIA Decarbonisation Report © ICOMIA

The International Council of Marine Industry Associations (ICOMIA), a global organisation representing the recreational marine industry with more than 100 members around the world, today shared further insights from its first-of-its-kind research outlining a portfolio of existing technologies best positioned to continue to propel the industry toward decarbonisation and outlined what this means for consumers. The research, which specifically looked at marine propulsion in boats under 24m in length, revealed that due to the unique on-water environment for recreational boating, and the varied interests of boaters and the experiences they seek, a variety of solutions must be considered to continue reducing carbon emissions from recreational boats.

The report, titled Pathways to Propulsion Decarbonisation for the Recreational Marine Industry was discussed by a panel of industry experts at Europe's biggest international consumer boat show, boot Düsseldorf, exploring what the research finds and what it means for end-users of recreational marine craft.

The Pathways to Decarbonisation for the Recreational Marine Industry report, commissioned by ICOMIA with leading global engineering consulting firm, Ricardo plc, investigated propulsion technologies across nine common recreational watercraft to compare the impact of lifetime GHG emissions, financial costs, usability, performance, range and infrastructure implications.

The propulsion technologies investigated included:

  • Battery electric (electric-powered boats and watercraft)
  • Hybrid electric (internal combustion engines using liquid fuel and electric)
  • Hydrogen (internal combustion engines or fuel cell)
  • Internal combustion engines with sustainable marine fuels (sustainably produced liquid substitute for conventional fossil fuel)
  • Internal combustion engines with gasoline or diesel

Due to the diversity of the types of boats in use and the varied experiences sought by boating consumers from fishing to watersports to cruising, the research shows there is no universal, "one-size-fits-all" approach to decarbonise recreational boats. As a result, in addition to current internal combustion and fossil fuel-powered boats, ICOMIA recommends that end-users consider a portfolio of existing technologies, including:

Sustainable liquid marine fuels, such as renewable drop-in fuels, are expected to be the most suitable source of energy to decarbonise recreational boats by 2035 - by as much as 90% - without compromising the distance a boat can travel or its performance. Of the approximately 30 million recreational boats in use worldwide, with an average total lifecycle of 40 to 50 years and global annual sales making up approximately 2% of the size of the current market, there is great potential for increased decarbonisation of recreational boats with immediate, widespread adoption of sustainable marine fuels.

Hydrogen is an emerging technology and another potential source for reducing carbon emissions from boats, as long as its production process is optimised. Hydrogen, if produced via electrolysis with zero fossil fuel electricity, can reduce carbon emissions for certain craft categories.

Electric propulsion is part of the strategy to decarbonise, however, it is not universally suitable for all types of recreational craft and use cases. Electric-only propulsion may have a higher GHG contribution from raw materials and manufacturing than conventional propulsion systems. Watercraft types with lower utilisation are unlikely to find that battery electric systems yield a reduction in GHG compared to the baseline internal combustion engine. It is important to note that this study considers both battery lifetime in years and recharging cycles as battery performance is expected to degrade over time regardless of utilisation. This could impact watercrafts that have a long life span but are not frequently utilised as it may require several battery replacements throughout its lifetime.

Hybrid boats that use both electric and internal combustion engines powered by liquid fuels offer the potential for reducing carbon emissions from boats in certain scenarios—namely boats used for longer periods of time and for greater distances. As a result, hybrid technology provides the most potential for emissions reductions for boats that are used for rentals and other high-use environments.

Sustainable steps for consumers

The report highlights there is more investment and work required to further reduce carbon emissions in the recreational marine industry. However, there are practical steps that end-users can take now to help reduce their own carbon emissions:

  • Consider the most likely use case of their particular boating hobby to understand which is the best option to minimise the global warming impact of their boat
  • To discuss the best options for propulsion technologies with independent experts, (consumer's National Marine Industry Association) before committing to a new purchase or a refit or repowering of their current boat
  • Start to explore sources for sustainable drop in marine fuels - we need to demonstrate the demand, in order for the supply infrastructure to be created
  • Think about how best to operate their particular boat in order to minimize their impact on the local environment. This is more than just greenhouse gas, it's the prevention of pollution or damage to the environment from water disturbance (wake) noise and other potential harms
  • Maintain their boat responsibly in order to ensure safe and efficient operations for the full potential lifespan of their boat
  • At the end of its working life dispose of their boat responsibly, to recycle and reuse as much as possible.

Down the report synopsis [PDF]

Find out how to download the full report

The Industry's Response

Since the launch of Pathways to Propulsion Decarbonisation for the Recreational Marine Industry in November 2023, there has been a positive response from the industry. Darren Vaux, president of ICOMIA, said: "We have been amazed by the response that this report has generated. In particular, the huge demand from the number of regulators that we have shared the report with. Everyone is desperate for data-driven insights to make sensible guidelines and regulations to support our industry. That is exactly what this report provides."

The Path Forward

The Pathways to Propulsion Decarbonisation for the Recreational Marine Industry report identifies technologies needed to further reduce carbon emissions for craft under 24m. ICOMIA recognises there is more work to be done to lead the industry to decarbonisation, however, and will be investing in further research in the future.

Vaux continued: "This is just the first step in our campaign called Propelling Our Future. We know that there is still a lot of research to do, new and emerging technologies to study and a body of knowledge that we aim to continue sharing across this global industry. We call on our industry partners everywhere to join our campaign, further our understanding and to share the results."

To support the report findings, ICOMIA, on behalf of the global recreational marine industry, has launched Propelling Our Future, an international campaign to educate and advance the industry on research-driven technology solutions:

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