Maritime Revolution: Surge in Alternative Fuel-Powered Ships

LNGImage Source: Oreaco


The maritime industry witnessed a significant shift in 2023 with 298 ships ordered for alternative fuel propulsion, marking an 8% increase from the previous year. Methanol emerged as a dominant player with 138 orders, closely rivaling LNG at 130. Notably, ammonia gained traction with 11 vessel orders, signaling a breakthrough. As the sector grapples with stringent emission targets, the surge in alternative fuel orders signifies a pivotal step toward decarbonization, providing impetus for a greener maritime future.


In a bold move towards a sustainable maritime future, the industry experienced a paradigm shift in 2023, marked by a surge in orders for ships powered by alternative fuels. The latest data from DNV's Alternative Fuels Insight (AFI) platform revealed a noteworthy 8% year-on-year increase, totaling 298 ships ordered with alternative fuel propulsion.

Faced with mounting pressure to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, particularly in light of stricter targets set by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in July 2023, the maritime sector is actively exploring decarbonization options. The AFI platform, meticulously tracking newbuild vessels and retrofitting efforts, recorded a total of 1,281 ships, highlighting the industry's commitment to adopting alternative fuels.

Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen, CEO Maritime at DNV, emphasized the significance of these orders, stating that they send crucial signals to fuel providers and stakeholders involved in the shipping industry's decarbonization journey. While alternative fuels are gaining traction, Ørbeck-Nilssen emphasized the need for concrete measures to actively lower emissions, particularly focusing on energy efficiency initiatives that yield immediate decarbonization outcomes.

Methanol emerged as the frontrunner among alternative fuels in 2023, with 138 ships ordered (excluding methanol carriers). This marked a substantial increase compared to the previous year, where only 35 ships were ordered to run on methanol. Container ships led the pack in the methanol segment with 106 orders, followed by bulk carriers (13) and car carriers (10).

LNG, the second most popular alternative fuel, saw 130 vessels ordered, a slight decrease from the previous year's 222. However, when considering newbuilds alone, LNG took the lead, given a significant proportion of methanol orders were for retrofits. The containers segment demonstrated the most activity for LNG (48), followed by car carriers (40) and tankers (30). Notably, LNG surpassed the 1,000-vessel mark (excluding LNG carriers), reaffirming its pivotal role in the maritime energy transition.

Ammonia made its mark in 2023, with 11 orders for vessels running on this fuel. In contrast, hydrogen witnessed a dip in popularity, with only five orders compared to the previous year's 18.

Martin Wold, Principal Consultant in DNV’s Maritime Advisory business, commented on the driving forces behind investments in alternative-fueled vessels, attributing the trend to the boom in container and car carrier newbuilds over the past three years. The industry now awaits the unfolding of trends in 2024 to gauge the continued momentum in alternative fuel adoption.


The surge in alternative fuel-powered ship orders in 2023 marks a pivotal moment in the maritime industry's journey towards decarbonization. With methanol taking center stage and notable advancements in LNG, ammonia, and hydrogen adoption, the industry is navigating uncharted waters towards a more sustainable future. These orders not only respond to emission reduction targets but also set the stage for ongoing innovations in alternative fuels, paving the way for a cleaner and greener maritime landscape.

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