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16 November 2023

Portfolio of technologies needed to reduce further carbon emissions from recreational boats

Ricardo has worked with ICOMIA, The International Council of Marine Industry Associations, on first-of-its kind research aimed at further advancing the decarbonisation of the global recreational boating industry


Ricardo has supported The International Council of Marine Industry Associations (ICOMIA) on the launch of a significant new report that outlines the range of technologies required to decarbonise boats used for such leisure and recreation pursuits as fishing, watersports and pleasure cruising. The research, Pathways to Decarbonisation for the Recreational Marine Industry, provides guidance to global governments, boating industry stakeholders and boat owners on the journey to foster a more sustainable boating experience. 

Informing the final report, Ricardo carried out a full life cycle assessment (LCA) on nine different craft and investigated five propulsion types, to support decarbonising the recreational marine industry through to 2035. LCA plays a central role in identifying the best available energy solutions for greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions while taking into consideration possible carbon emissions connected to the manufacturing processes, in-use phases and end-of-life possibilities of various energy carriers, converters and the related supply infrastructure. The analysis compared the impact of lifetime GHG emissions, financial cost, usability, performance and infrastructure implications. It also analysed the total carbon journey for recreational marine propulsion, starting from the extraction of the carbon, refining, generation or harvesting of energy, to subsequent transportation and storage and the effect of its use onboard boats and finally its end-of-life disposal or recycling. 

The analysis supports how technological advancements can enable marine leisure operations to become less dependent on fossil fuels in the future. Key next steps that the industry is seeking include: 

  • The adoption of a technology neutral decarbonisation approach for marine environments
  • An acceleration of the development and distribution of sustainable marine fuels and consumer education campaigns that support the adoption of new fuels
  • Consumer safety and government entities partnering with the recreational marine industry to establish marine electric technology standards and consumer safety protocols
  • An expansion of R&D tax credits and investments to improve electric battery density and hydrogen research that can be applied to the marine environment
  • Continued research to evaluate existing and emerging technologies and how to best apply them to the unique marine environment

The report investigated propulsion technologies across nine common recreational watercrafts to compare the impact of lifetime GHG emissions, financial costs, usability, performance, range and infrastructure implications. The propulsion technologies investigated included: battery electric, hybrid electric, hydrogen, internal combustion engines with sustainable marine fuels, and internal combustion engines with gasoline and diesel. The findings revealed that 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, the industry must consider a portfolio of technologies, including: sustainable liquid marine fuels, hydrogen, electric propulsion and hybrid. 

Angela Johnson, Global Vice President of Advanced Technology at Ricardo, said: “This report represents a major milestone in identifying the best available energy solutions to support decarbonisation across the recreational marine industry. It was clear from our analysis that the sector’s diversity means a one-size fits all approach is not appropriate to achieve future decarbonisation. However, our expertise in life cycle assessment, sustainable mobility and growing experience supporting decarbonisation in the marine sector, meant we were well placed to support recommendations to help shape future global strategies and policies. This project drew on a cross-functional team within the business, and we’re extremely pleased to have been part of this ground-breaking report. We look forward to continuing to work with ICOMIA in the future.” 

Darren Vaux, President of ICOMIA said: “Our love for boating is fundamentally reliant on a healthy and sustainable marine environment, and we must take care of it to ensure the experiences boating provides can be enjoyed for generations to come. For the first time, we’ve united the global recreational marine industry around our most comprehensive, peer-reviewed research to explore opportunities that could reduce recreational boats’ carbon emissions, giving us the data we need to begin educating policy makers, our stakeholder community, and boaters on the varied decarbonisation solutions unique to our industry. This new research provides guidance on the focus for the innovations we can begin exploring today to create a better boating experience that reduces our environmental footprint.” 

Download ICOMIA’s full press release

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 and to download a summary of the full report, visit:



Download the full press release: New global research outlines portfolio of technologies to further reduce carbon emissions from recreational boats.

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