Navigating the Future: Research to Slash Carbon Emissions from Recreational Boats

The International Council of Marine Industry Associations (ICOMIA) released groundbreaking research that charts a course toward decarbonizing the recreational boating industry. The study, titled “Pathways to Propulsion Decarbonisation for the Recreational Marine Industry,” offers valuable insights into reducing carbon emissions from boats under 24m in length.

Recreational boating presents a unique challenge for carbon reduction due to the diverse nature of boats and the wide array of experiences sought by enthusiasts. The research emphasizes the need for a multi-path approach, acknowledging that no one-size-fits-all solution exists.

Comparing Technologies for a Greener Future

The report, a collaboration between ICOMIA and global engineering consulting firm Ricardo plc, scrutinized nine common watercraft propulsion technologies. The technologies include battery electric, hybrid electric, hydrogen, internal combustion engines with sustainable marine fuels, and traditional gasoline or diesel engines.

Moreover, among the technologies, sustainable liquid marine fuels, such as renewable drop-in fuels, emerge as a frontrunner, offering a potential 90% reduction in carbon emissions by 2035. Overall, With approximately 30 million recreational boats globally, the widespread adoption of sustainable marine fuels presents a significant opportunity for immediate decarbonization.

Hydrogen and Electric Propulsion: Emerging Solutions

Hydrogen, produced through fossil-free processes, and electric propulsion are also considered promising, each with its set of advantages. However, the study notes that electric-only propulsion may not be universally suitable for all types of recreational craft, and hydrogen’s efficacy depends on optimized production methods.

Hybrid boats, blending both electric and internal combustion engines with liquid fuels, show promise in certain scenarios. They are particularly effective for boats used for longer periods and greater distances, offering emissions reductions potential in high-use environments like rentals.

Internal Combustion Engines with Sustainable Fuels

The research underlines the potential of internal combustion engines using sustainable marine fuels as a bridge between traditional and future technologies. These sustainably produced liquid substitutes for conventional fossil fuels could offer a pragmatic solution for a smoother transition.

Challenges of Battery Electric Propulsion

While electric propulsion is part of the strategy to decarbonize, it is not universally suitable for all types of recreational craft and use cases. The study highlights that electric-only propulsion may have a higher greenhouse gas (GHG) contribution from raw materials and manufacturing than conventional systems, especially for watercraft with lower utilization.

Recreational boats, unlike traditional transportation, are used for leisure and exhibit significant variations in usage frequency. The study forecasts a potential 5% to 250% increase in the cost of ownership for alternative propulsion technologies until they achieve market scale.

Global Industry Progress and Commitment

Despite accounting for less than 0.1% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the recreational marine industry has made significant strides in the last two decades. The U.S. recreational marine industry alone has reduced marine engine emissions by over 90% and increased fuel efficiency by more than 40%. The industry remains committed to leading conservation efforts and expanding collective efforts for a sustainable marine environment.

Key Recommendations for a Greener Future

Darren Vaux, President of ICOMIA, highlights the importance of a comprehensive approach to navigate towards a sustainable future for recreational boating. The industry is urging global governments and stakeholders to:

– Adopt a technology-neutral decarbonization approach.
– Accelerate the development and distribution of sustainable marine fuels.
– Establish marine electric technology standards and consumer safety protocols.
– Expand research and development tax credits for electric battery density and hydrogen research.

The research serves as a springboard for ongoing exploration of existing and emerging technologies and their optimal application in the marine environment. The industry commits to evaluating innovations and refining strategies to collectively move towards a greener future.

ICOMIA Launches Global Campaign

To support the report’s findings, ICOMIA launches “Propelling Our Future,” an international campaign aimed at educating and advancing the industry on research-driven technology solutions. More information and a summary of the full report can be found at [](

Championing Marine Industry Advocacy

ICOMIA, representing the global recreational marine industry since 1966, brings together national marine industry associations for a united voice on international issues. Learn more at

Engineering Excellence with Ricardo plc

Ricardo plc, a global consulting company with over 100 years of engineering excellence, collaborates to deliver sustainable outcomes in energy transition, environmental services, and mobility. Explore their work at

(Navigating the Future: Research to Slash Carbon Emissions from Recreational Boats – – November 2023)