Adapting marinas to alternative fuel propulsion systems

by Ian Dobson and Esteban Biondi
Climate change mitigation requires widespread changes to reduce green house gas (GHG) emissions, including changes to recreational navigation energy sources. Some of the questions being asked across the sector include: What does the future look like? How do marinas need to respond? When do I need to act? PIANC RecCom working group 217 is drafting technical guidance for the adaptation of marina infrastructure to support the energy transition of the recreational navigation industry.

The fuel puzzle
Front and centre to the question of adaptation is the need to understand which fuel propulsion systems will be used by recreational watercraft in a decarbonised future. The range of theoretical alternative fuels available for recreational boating activities is varied, but very few are being implemented at scale. Potential fuel sources include electric engines, synthetic liquid fuels (for internal combustion engines), hydrogen (fuel cell and combustion), methanol, and hybrid combinations thereof.
Whilst electrical supply systems are already commonplace in marinas, significant changes are required to address the needs for battery charging for primary propulsion systems. For each type of solution, the supply chain of the energy source and the availability of vessels will determine the marina requirements.
Which fuel will win?
The sustainable propulsion system of choice for recreational vessels will drive the demand for marina adaptation.
Recreational navigation propulsion systems continue to evolve as powertrains and fuel technology provide more advanced solutions. The automotive industry was thought to be a reference for technology development, but boats significantly differ from cars. The increased mass of fuel systems in vessels creates a disproportionate amount of drag increasing fuel consumption, the impacts of autonomy changes are more significant in marine environments, and the use patterns of private vessels are very different from private cars. ICOMIA evaluated the GHG life cycle emissions of alternative propulsion systems in its recent report on Pathways to Propulsion Decarbonisation for the Recreational Marine Industry (see p.27), concluding that “the diversity of the recreational marine industry means environmental sustainability and decarbonisation initiatives cannot take a one-size-fits-all approach related to propulsion technologies.”

Electric vessels are presently the most visible introduction to alternative fuels. There are a growing number of fully electric and hybrid propulsion vessels available to buy on the market today, ranging from RIBs to 90ft (27m) catamarans. Multiple small boat designs are available with full electric propulsion systems, with some manufacturers having a long waiting list. Due to energy density, cost of battery energy solutions and desired range, hybrid energy systems are predominant for yachts and catamarans.
Next to the market, and in early roll-out, are the hydrogen-electric hybrids, most of which will utilise a hydrogen fuel cell to provide electric power. There is also much development in the world of commercial shipping, with solutions under development that include hydrogen, ammonia and methanol. These types of solutions are presently considered the alternative pathways to providing non-fossil fuel propulsion to superyachts, even if the 37th America’s Cup will showcase the introduction of hydrogen fuel cell chase boats.

Synthetic liquid “drop-in” fuels, such as biodiesel and hydrogenated vegetable oil (HVO), can be used in internal combustion engines, with relatively minor modifications, to lower emissions of carbon and other pollutants. However, their emission performance varies widely due to production methods and source materials. Other fuels for internal combustion engines include methanol and hydrogen-based diesel substitutes.
Since there is a vast fleet of recreational vessels with internal combustion engines that cannot easily be replaced, synthetic drop-in fuels (often labelled ‘transition fuels’ as they are unlikely to be carbon zero) are likely to provide a valuable interim solution to the wider market in the near term. However, the ICOMIA report highlights that the life cycle emissions of the most carbon-efficient drop-in fuels can be lower than alternative propulsion systems with low usage, due to the emissions embodied in the mining and fabrication of the propulsion system itself.
If you think that it is ‘too early to say’ or it ‘remains unclear’ which fuel will win the race to replace fossil fuels, you might be providing the right answer to the wrong question. There is already consensus that the industry will require an array of solutions to meet the wide-ranging needs of the customer and the medium-term landscape will require infrastructure to support an array of fuelling systems.
Future-proofing infrastructure
The challenge for the marina owner and operator is digesting this changing landscape and coming to informed business decisions on how to invest in assets whilst meeting customer expectations and achieving carbon emission targets (internal or regulatory). From an institutional and industry perspective, PIANC RecCom intends to create the conditions for marina adaptation so that marina facilities do not become a bottleneck in the decarbonisation process of the recreational navigation industry.
The traditional fuel berth is the most obvious piece of infrastructure to review. It is highly likely that the berth will need to cater for the dispensing of an increased number of liquid fuel types. Synthetic drop-in liquid fuels, which can be stored in traditional tanks, are the most straightforward to adapt to, but a wider variety of fuel storage and dispensing systems may need to be available.

Electric hook-ups at berths are commonplace to enable powering of vessels for ancillary purposes. In general, these power systems need to be upgraded for increased amperage in order to be used for slow charging of batteries (‘drip feed’ charging stations). Marinas may need to invest in new pedestals, wiring and transformers to provide slow-charging berths for some full electric and hybrid vessels across the marina. However, the challenge comes when significant numbers of boats are being charged at the same time, causing increased simultaneity requirements during peak charging demand periods or exceeding the total power demand on the marina electrical system.
This problem of available electrical energy supply becomes increasingly more problematic where super-fast chargers are provided (anywhere between 7kW and 22kW) for electric boats, in addition to car chargers in the car park. The mix of super-fast chargers to drip charges should be assessed based on the customer mix, but also in the context of what the local power grid can support.
The storage and delivery of hydrogen will require more complex systems for pressurised storage and dispensing. However, aside from capital investment in specialist equipment, operators also face a huge impact on space requirements. Larger fuel berths will be required, with associated landside storage and access space that will absorb commercial space. Infrastructure requirements for methanol may be less demanding than hydrogen, but there are still details to be worked out.
New propulsion systems in the recreational navigation industry will require a mix of infrastructure adaptations in marinas. Different marinas will have to respond to different emerging demands, depending on vessel sizes, user profiles and environmental conditions. Significant investments will be required over time, so careful analysis and planning will be required. Whilst there are many questions to be answered, PIANC RecCom intends to lay out the fundamental principles with the working group 217 upcoming report and develop more detailed guidance as needed in the future.

Ian Dobson, managing director of TILT Engineering Design, is a member of the PIANC Recreational Commission and is chair of the Working Group titled – The impact of Alternative Fuel Vessels on Marina Design and Management. Esteban Biondi, principal at Applied Technology & Management, is chair of the PIANC Recreational Commission.


Waterfront innovations in Canada

New agent for Capria

Breaking ground on the future

Port Vell launches bunkering service

Pacsoft launches MarinaPay

Extra berths at The Boat Works

Storm protection in Quincy Bay

Dura adds smaller size mesh

Smart Marinas guide and 2022 industry statistics

Man Overboard alarm readies for export

Eco pedestals promoted for export

Safe storage for lithium batteries

Freedom adds two Sydney clubs

Rental service boost in South Florida

New transporter is fit for a Princess

Keeping it in the family

Metstrade remains essential anchor point

Adapting marinas to alternative fuel propulsion systems

EV charging in the marina industry

Whitepaper illuminates key role of bidirectional charging

Mobile fuel station pioneers sustainability and efficiency

Resilient marina renovations lead to coral relocation

New research outlines pathways to decarbonisation

A resilient rebirth at Zeke's Landing

Renovations, partnership and acquisitions

Partnership boosts nautical tourism

Replacement docks double superyacht capacity

Premier buys leading drystack

Tourist driven marina breaks ground

Waikawa extension opens

Ultra luxury on The Spit

Launching Norlana superyacht hub

Popular boat lifts form part of renovation project

New forklift boosts operator confidence

Digital payment solution for visitor moorings

Stacking up on Okanagan Lake

Smart software drives success in Mooloolaba

Using bacteria to eliminate hydrocarbon residues

Sustainable sanitation for America’s Cup bases

MDL continues multi million pound roll ut

D-Marin makes €1.7 million investment

Voting in the best for 2023

Regeneration continues at Isle of Wight harbour

Expansion plans in a buoyant market

Customers, culture, comms and carbon

Ligurian icons make a comeback

Welcoming megayachts to Istanbul

Integra buys Aventura marina

Med marina networks partner up

Renewed Dover dock nears completion

Merger creates 'biggest' South Florida marina

Sindalah yacht repair centre, first of many for Neom

New Calero group marina, and more

IBEX one of best to date

Plans firmed up for Habacoa

M3 to boost Amaala to La Belle Classe

IWMC 2025 heads to Venice

AMI keynote announced

Redeveloping a prime lakeside marina

Charging options on both sides of the Channel

Sanitary building kick starts floating building range

Hydrogen power

Floating patio becomes new marina hub

Boosting sustainability with the WRF

New lifts in facility upgrade

Interest builds for electric hoists

Majoring on the minority

Flying the Blue Flag

Silver EcoVadis for Premier

Protecting a sensitive ecosystem

Tangible benefits for the local area

Karpaz Gate Marina: A home away from home

Convenience is not a European value

Industry lobbies government on cyclone cover crisis

Upgrades at Port of Lisbon

Port 32 expands partnership with Gulfstream

North Island marina expands

Monument buys Florida marine centre

Marine Centre plans for James Watt

JYC Marina soft opens for Saudi Grand Prix

Wider decking panel– ideal for finger piers

GCMarine partners with Harbour Assist

Elevator Lift is reconfigured

Cleaning water with Advanced Oxidation

Trouble free trolley goes international

Waiting pontoon for high season

More Freedom in Australia

First in Barcelona, first in Redwood City

D Marin wins iF Design award

Futuristic pod delivered to the Pearl

New production line, new designs and noteworthy deliveries

New owners to invest in Dartside Quay

Multi use trailer for Canadian tourism service

Handle with care: a pad for all hull shapes

One year operation of electric boat hoists

Setting new delivery records for 2023

Variable width option for mobile boat hoists

IBEX 2023: focus on sustainability

In need of new marinas and new money

Superyacht marina for Dubai Islands

Swift progress on Blue Water Cay

Bermuda dock opens for superyachts

New managers for GCCM

IGY to operate NEOM's first groundbreaking marina

Mega focus in Italian marinas

Marina Bahia Golfito: the new Costa Rica destination

Rivergate up for sale

Full service in Fort Lauderdale

Go Outdoors platform launch

Upgrading key infrastructure

Marina group in administration

Operator sought for Co Down marina

How sustainable is your marina?

Geoff Phillips

UK marina group signs four year service contract

Valterri Vauramo

Joint connector enhances breakwater performance

Flovac wins second Mallorca contract

Setting a new standard in marine electrical safety

Smarter management, happier customers

Enhancing customer service across a multinational portfolio

Moss Marina: surviving the storm

Developing the Eagle Float

Wet versus dry in the western Med

First phase drystack opens in Charleston

Forklift design for growing centre console market

Pioneering drystack buys larger forklift

Industry views: Drystack storage

Promoting a customer focused culture

Ismailia contract awarded

Trophy asset for east coast portfolio

Marina completes waterfront regeneration

Investment plans for Pylos

Operator chosen for Elounda

New marina at town gateway

Guidelines for sustainable infrastructure

Evolving design over the decades

New trends drive marina reshape

Electric chargers for Italian marinas

D Marin expands digital solutions

Next generation buoy

Ultranav invests in LifeLadder

New hoist brings new technology

Pontoons for Ocean Race

Electric propulsion: a solution to pollution

Collection and protection for small islands

AMI Expo: a record breaker

Slovenian marinas join forces to boost potential

Resilience, long term vision and personal approach

Support for local businesses

Becoming a master at planning marinas

A nautical tourism centre for Piombino

Ismailia Yacht Marina: a key player in the new era of the Suez Canal

Rebuild underway at Club marina

Upgrade approved for Jones Bay

Port 32 buys Lighthouse Point

Suntex adds NJ and AZ marinas

Marina group expands to Spain

Port Vell as Cup superyacht marina

Berths still in high demand

Community space with maritime focus

Livart builds state of art factory

Dock company changes hands

New catalogue highlights

A 3D map of your marina

All change at ICOMIA

ICOMIA stats for 2021

Stellar joins Molo

Developing a fast charge network

The move to electric: e handling and e boating

Building a sustainable marina

Buzzing on full power

Innovation on the dockside

E dock supports e boat challenges

World Cup boosts pedestal contracts

Power for bigger berths in Dubrovnik

Opening the APS Seychelles agency

Building post pandemic momentum

Jesolo Marina plays major part in coastal plans

Reimagining Noss on Dart

Regeneration planning for Des Moines

Suntex buys Green Cove

New docks at Blue Haven

First NEOM island announced

Plan ahead for Marinas24

Novalja opens second phase

Melbourne City completes large berth upgrade

Inaugural PIANC America

Calypso Cove project agreed

Funding boost for Ocean Reef

MarineMax buys marina build specialist

Pod design to regenerate seagrass

First electric boat supercharger in Portugal

20 years for ICMS

Community docks for St Johns River

D-Marin invests in Sense4Boat

Autonomous gardening – anywhere under the sun

Australian marina sets new benchmark in waterfront living

Electric and traditional – hoist designs for all

Cat trailer range expanded

Ontario operator buys multi use trailer

Green o'clock at Metstrade

40 years of yard deliveries

One of the world's first electric marine hoists is installed in Spain

Twenty years of talented teamwork

Kemah Boardwalk: Gateway to Galveston Bay

Marinas and takeovers: Enough room for boating?

True spice in the Spice Island

Top US boat dealer launches first in state drystack

Captains and crew vote Coral Sea Marina 'best in world'

First superyacht repair and refit centre in UAE

Abu Dhabi: a new winter oasis

Gibraltar superyacht berths near completion

Superyachts welcome at Palm Beach marina

The big boat picture in southern Italy

Seclusion and luxury in the Bahamas

Jersey marina invests in rebuild

New superyacht haven in Greek isles

Resort opens in favoured tourist spot

Hurricane Ian devastates Fort Myers marinas

NZMOA 2022 Awards

Big Challenges, Big Decisions

Suntex expands into California market

Ocean Reef breakwaters complete

Almarin buys Aister

Historic club installs movable rowing pontoon

Partnership boosts green awareness

Fast charge expansion to US and Sweden

Customised forklift for Saxon Wharf

New decking prompts rethink

Silver and gold for D Marin

Third gen business buys third MT

MARINAS22: inspiring – and successful

Adelaide Pointe: a new development model

Repairs bring new energy to Dinner Key Marina

Buying and managing a first Italian marina

South Island gem for boating community

Construction starts at Dana Point Harbor

Second contract for 2024 Olympics

First phase completes at Windermere

Golden centrepiece at Beach Marine

Interest builds for megayacht marina

Common nautical rules sought

MarineMax to buy IGY Marinas

Bristol town upgrades harbour

Med market hit by lack of uniform fee policy

The good, the fair and the dangerous

The future of government marina leases and concessions

Boosting berths in Roskilde

Vacuum sewage system for new Spanish marina

Canadian club buys stacker crane

European boost for electric charging

Phase one portal release

Sign up surge for marina platform

Maximising occupancy: the smart way

Mia and Mateo and the smart marina

Delivering a digital future for marina management

One system for your whole business

Revolutionising time at the fuel dock

Kempinski to manage one of a kind hotel

A shared vision for the future on water

Building the first sustainable floating city

Flexible marina investment for maximum returns

New life for neglected peninsula

APCC wins Jubail contract

Resource consent for Te Rahui Herenga Waka

Spit plan contract

Berth boost at BYC

More cats welcome in Kemah

Planning for Enviro Officer course

Marina mooted in the east

Revised costing for St George's

JDC progresses mega project

Health of Industry report

MYP becomes MYTR at IBEX

Free flow club design links land to sea

Ambitious plans for a 21st century network

Azimut Benetti marinas

New all tide marina to enhance leisure mooring

Balancing land use, economics and destination appeal

When the seas rise

Sponsored feature: Semi automation boosts drystack

Phase two pier in place

Superyacht marina opts for vacuum sewerage

Storm proven attenuator protects Sunset Bay

Custom forklift for Cape Cod yard

Added value software features for ever changing industry

Developing a new green standard for Italian marinas

New yachting brand officially launched in Monaco

Coral Sea Marina Resort marks Clean Up Australia Day

Closing the loop on waste

Sustainable solutions support yard services

Composite piling for eco sense and long life

Future proofing St Michaels Marina

Trio to develop resort on Al Marjan Island

Semi automation boosts drystack profits

Final phase at Corpach

Upgrade complete at Albert Pier

Marinas to compete in Smart and Sustainable Rendezvous 2022

Abu Dhabi breaks ground on new marinas

Resort plans in Wallonia

Pelican Waters breaks ground on Queensland marina

New Cyprus Marina

Positive signs for Metstrade 2022

LA Waterfront. Setting the stage for new development

New yard in Australia

Marina group marks 35 years