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Pathways to Propulsion Decarbonisation for the Recreational Marine Industry

New research outlines propulsion technologies to propel the industry toward decarbonisation.

While recreational boats account for less than 0.1%1 of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the recreational marine industry has come together to find solutions to further reduce its environmental impact.

Engineers and environmental experts across the industry, led by the International Council of Marine Industry Associations (ICOMIA) with more than 100 members around the world, investigated propulsion technologies across nine common recreational watercraft under 24m in length to compare the impact of lifetime GHG emissions, financial cost, usability, range, performance and infrastructure implications, including:

  • 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 liquid marine fuels (a sustainably produced liquid substitute for conventional fossil fuel)
  • Internal combustion engines with petrol or diesel

Commitment to Reduce Carbon Emissions

Since 1966, the International Council of Marine Industry Associations (ICOMIA) has advanced the global recreational marine industry and helped lead environmental sustainability efforts, from advocating for new research and technologies to industry training and knowledge sharing.

'It is our responsibility to protect our environment for the boaters of today and tomorrow, and we must continuously bring new research and solutions forward.

That is why we’re launching the Propelling Our Future educational campaign, a step toward further reducing recreational marine carbon emissions and protecting our love of boating for generations to come.

To inform our efforts, we commissioned a first-of-its-kind study with Ricardo PLC, a leading global engineering consulting firm, to better understand our path forward. We found there is not one simple solution. Our industry is unlike any other transportation sector and a variety of technology solutions must be considered, from sustainable liquid marine fuels to electric propulsion and hydrogen and hybrid power systems.

This research is just one step in the journey. We know we have more work to do. To continue enjoying life on the water, we’re committed to bringing forward the best in our industry to understand the challenges and opportunities to make decisions based on data. As we look to the future, we will convene the necessary expertise to support the global recreational marine industry on the research and innovations needed to collectively move our industry forward. We hope you’ll join us.'

Darren Vaux,
ICOMIA President

As climate change receives political and societal attention, the recreational marine industry is encouraged to present ways to address reduced carbon emissions for the sector. Despite being a small contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions relative to other sectors, accounting for only 0.4% and 0.7% of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions emitted by the transport sector in the EU and USA respectively [1,2], the marine leisure sector has actively investigated options to reduce its GHG emissions.

The International Council of Marine Industry Associations (ICOMIA) and its decarbonisation steering committee commissioned
Ricardo PLC to conduct independent scientific research and third-party reviewed life cycle assessment (LCA) to identify and independently verify suitable propulsion technologies for decarbonising recreational craft.

The aim of the study is to provide objective data which can be used to guide strategic decisions and technology choices on future propulsions solutions to achieve greenhouse gas reductions in marine leisure propulsion.

The study compared the suitability of five different propulsion technologies including baseline fossil fuel ICE (gasoline & diesel), hybrid electric, hydrogen ICE or fuel cell, ICE with drop-in sustainable marine fuels including HVO and e-gasoline, and battery electric for nine representative recreational craft to help decarbonise the marine leisure industry through to 2035.

The craft selected in this study include a range of small recreational craft below 24m in hull length, representing the global market. Consideration was given to the sales volume of craft as well as the typical engine power and usage profiles to provide the most representative and meaningful overview.

To achieve this, an analysis has been undertaken to investigate greenhouse gas (GHG) life cycle emissions, costs, usability, range, and performance, along with future technology and fuel availability, as illustrated in Figure 1. The resulting analysis was used to determine overall suitability of different energy options for each craft category through to 2035.

The report helps to answer some of the questions that the industry has been asking over the last few years. 

As we look to find alternatives to the traditional petrol and diesel propulsion systems that have been used for the past 100 years and how do we choose the most appropriate alternative? 

This report will provide real environmental data on all the alternatives, and how they may fit into future propulsion. 

Practicality and Performance Conclusions

How much battery power is really needed to provide a reasonable range for different vessels?

Can hydrogen be a replacement fuel? 

Life Cycle Assessment Conclusions

What is the Global Warming Potential of a diesel powered motoryacht over its full lifecycle and how much is embedded in its manufacture? 

Total Cost of Ownership

What does this mean to our customers? How much more expensive will hydrogen powered craft really be? 

To obtain a free copy of the synopsis report email

The full report, which has been two years in the making, and cost over €800,000 contains a wealth of information and insight that will prove invaluable for many British Marine members.

British Marine’s Enterprise and Enterprise + members can request a copy of the full report free of charge, by emailing

Classic+ members can purchase the report for £499, whilst Classic members can purchase the report for £999. Email for more details. 

Access members can upgrade to Classic if they wish to purchase a copy of the report. Speak to the membership team for more details


Non-members can order a copy of the full report for €2,450 direct from ICOMIA.

Want to learn more about the report and what impact it may have on your business?

On Wednesday 22 November, at 18.30, British Marine hosted a webinar with Patrick Hemp of to help marine businesses better understand the findings from the report and the impact this may have on their business.

Watch the webinar here.

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. To learn more visit

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