Welcome to our maritime forecast to 2050

Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen, DNV GL - Maritime CEO

The DNV GL Maritime Forecast to 2050, part of our Energy Transition Outlook series, was first released in 2017.

Since that time it has grown into a vision of how the industry can respond to a changing energy landscape. Through the Maritime Forecast we hope to offer guidance, highlight trends, and provide valuable insights for maritime stakeholders. 

The strong and ambitious direction set by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) last year, with the release of its greenhouse gas reduction strategy and the growing external pressure on shipping to cut emissions give this year’s report its focus. One of the key areas, is to assess how the world fleet measures up in terms of decarbonization and determine the readiness of alternative fuels to scale up to meet wider demand. 

Decarbonization could be especially challenging in the deep-sea segment, which generates 80% of the global fleet’s CO2 emissions. Energy efficiency, in both design and operation, will play a key role. In the short sea segment, we are seeing early trials and the use of low- or zerocarbon technologies that could translate to the wider fleet, including batteries and hydrogen. 

The current options for the deep-sea trade are limited to LNG which is not carbon neutral, or to biofuels, which are not yet widely available and more expensive. 

As we head toward 2050, our Maritime Forecast model suggests that the maritime industry will be characterized by an increasing diversity in fuel choices. With a wider range of alternative and carbon-neutral fuels finding a place alongside traditional bunkers and more established alternatives like LNG. 

Fuel flexibility is one of the keys to meeting the decarbonization challenge, as the fuels of today may not be the fuels of tomorrow. Having a picture of the entire fuel ecosystem is vital, as owners, operators, and the industry itself will find it much tougher to adapt to a low-carbon future if they are locked into a single choice. This also applies to storage and onboard tanks, and even to port infrastructure. 

To address this concern, we present a ‘bridging philosophy’ in the report, and look at how flexibility – in terms of fuels, tanks, and engines, can smooth the transition. Just as operators today hedge their bunker choices, owners could hedge their technology choices – giving them a wider range of options to adopt emerging fuels. One of the keys to sustained competitiveness in this changing and uncertain landscape is examining upcoming trends and attempting to future-proof a new vessel as much as possible before it hits the water. 

The ongoing energy transition continues to reshape the shipping industry, with much uncertainty on the way to 2050. To be confident in the long-term requires an awareness of the structural changes ahead and the ability to remain flexible as new fuel pathways emerge.