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Maritime Environmental and Technical Assistance (META) Program

The META program promotes the research, demonstration, and development of emerging technologies, practices, and processes that improve maritime industrial environmental sustainability. Since its inception, META’s primary focus areas have been control of aquatic invasive species transported by vessels, and reduction in vessel and port air emissions. These two areas present significant continuing challenges for ship owners and operators, the regulatory community, and the public. As other maritime environmental issues emerge, additional areas of study may be included.

  • Tools. MARAD authority allows META to use various acquisition tools to pursue maritime environmental research, development, and demonstration projects.
  • Financial responsibility. MARAD is particularly interested in collaborative cost-sharing efforts in partnership with government agencies, academia, and non-governmental organizations. These efforts seek to provide vital information to government stakeholders and the maritime industry regarding effective and affordable environmental regulation and cost-effective means to achieve compliance.
  • Investigative projects. Requests for Information (RFIs) and Requests for Proposals (RFPs): Depending on research requirements, MARAD posts competitive Requests for Information/Proposals to investigate or demonstrate particular issues or areas. RFIs/RFPs are typically posted on the website and are generally open for a 30-day period. In addition to RFIs/RFPs, MARAD also enters into Interagency Agreements with sister Federal agencies to explore areas of mutual interest.

SAFE-T Web-based Toolset 

MARAD partnered with Energy and Environmental Research Associates, LLC. (EERA) to design and create the Ship Alternative Fuel and Emissions Toolkit (SAFE-T) a web-based suite of tools for vessel owner/operators to use when considering actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. SAFE-T provides tools enabling shippers to track fuel use and emissions, compare the carbon intensity of different shipping routes, and compare properties of conventional and alternative marine fuels. SAFE-T is a user-friendly, web-based suite of tools that allow users to evaluate emissions and greenhouse gas reduction strategies for shipping. SAFE-T was built from a robust blend of literature analysis, evaluation of comparable tools, input from stakeholders, and comprehensive examination of key subject matter experts. SAFE-T is built on international standards and methodologies. The website for the program is and additional information is included in the resources and FAQs (FAQ - SAFE-T (

Environmental Projects

Through the META Program, MARAD partners with Federal, state, and local agencies, the maritime industry and academia, to develop and carry out projects that provide all stakeholders with useful information and insight on maritime environmental issues. Presented below is information on past and current projects with links to final reports, and information on how stakeholders can engage with MARAD in this enterprise.

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Control of Aquatic Invasive Species

Invasive species are considered one of the greatest threats to marine and coastal biodiversity world-wide. Aquatic invasions can destroy native ecosystems, overwhelm native species, reduce recreational opportunities, and adversely impact sport and commercial fisheries. Although there are many pathways through which these invasions can occur, transportation in ships’ ballast water and underwater hull biofouling are known contributors.

Since the early 2000s, MARAD has worked with the maritime community to address issues related to the introduction of non-indigenous aquatic species through ballast water and hull biofouling. The Agency established its Ballast Water Initiative to assist industry and government agencies in moving treatment technologies from the laboratory to shipboard application as rapidly as possible.

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Ballast Water Treatment

MARAD’s ballast water efforts have grown into a multi-state and multi-agency cooperative effort that supports the development of technical and scientific protocols for technology testing and verification, and operation of independent testing facilities to provide the needed data for ultimate certification of ballast water management systems (BWMS) to International Maritime Organization (IMO) and Coast Guard standards. These facilities also conduct research and development into improved technology and processing to control invasive species.

Prior to 2010, MARAD contributed ship platforms for testing, scientific, technical, engineering, and marine architectural support and year-end funding to the ballast water effort. MARAD also worked with academia and other stakeholders to coordinate the development of a network of U.S.-based facilities for testing and verification of Ballast Water Management Systems (BWMS). MARAD’s early ballast water efforts were also supported with funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 2005 and 2006.

Beginning in 2010, MARAD provided funding under the META Program to support the creation and operation of three independent BWMS testing facilities. By 2012, all three facilities were able to test technologies in accordance with International Maritime Organization (IMO) testing protocols, and by 2013 all were accepted by the U.S. Coast Guard as sub-laboratories for the evaluation and testing of these systems. For more information, click here.

  • Ballast Water Technology Testing in the Chesapeake Bay Region. In 2008, MARAD partnered with the Maryland Department of Transportation and the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science to establish the Maritime Environmental Resource Center (MERC) to evaluate the mechanical and biological efficacy, costs, and logistical aspects of BWMS, and to assess the economic impacts of ballast water regulations and management approaches. In 2011, MERC created a mobile barge-based test platform which enables testing of ballast water control systems in a wide range of environmental conditions with differing biological communities and varying salinities. MERC continues testing technology and conducting research related to the prevention of the introduction of non-indigenous aquatic species into ecosystems. 
  • Ballast Water Technology Testing in the Great Lakes. MARAD is a sponsor of the Great Ships Initiative (GSI), a collaborative effort to end ship-mediated introductions of invasive species in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system through independent research and demonstration of environmental technology, financial incentives, and consistent basin-wide harbor monitoring. With the help of MARAD, GSI established a land-based Research, Development and Technology Evaluation (RDTE) facility in Superior, Wisconsin, to provide intensive testing services to vendors of BWMS and bench-scale testing of promising treatments.
  • Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Superior’s Lake Superior Research Institute and the University of Duluth (Minnesota’s Natural Resources Research Institute), among others, provide critical scientific and technical expertise and services for biological research activities and other activities at GSI. Click here to find out more about the Great Ships Initiative and view relevant reports and publications.
  • Ballast Water Technology Testing on MARAD’s Training Ship Golden Bear. MARAD teamed with the California Maritime Academy, the University of Washington, and Glosten Associates to establish a ballast water testing capability on board the California Maritime Academy training ship Golden Bear. The ship was successfully modified in 2010 and now assists with BWMS research and verification by conducting tests of systems during the regular school year while the ship is moored at its dock in Vallejo, California, and during the summer sea-term when the ship is underway. This West Coast-based research platform facilitates BWMS research in a region highly populated with non-indigenous aquatic species. Click here to find out more about the work aboard the Golden Bear Facility and to view relevant reports and publications.

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Hull Fouling

MARAD is also addressing issues related to the introduction of non-indigenous aquatic species through hull biofouling. Hull biofouling is another significant ship vector for the introduction of non-indigenous aquatic species. The urgency of this issue is evidenced by the rapid development of the IMO’s Guidelines for the control and management of ships’ biofouling to minimize the transfer of invasive aquatic species -- approved by the IMO MEPC 62 in July of 2011. Hull husbandry was also briefly discussed in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed 2013 Vessel General Permit (VGP). Although no specific requirements were established, the EPA stated that vessel owner/operators must minimize the transport of attached living organisms when they travel into waters subject to the VGP from outside the U.S. exclusive economic zone, or when traveling between Coast Guard Captain of the Port zones. Click here to learn more about the IMO Guidelines, hull fouling and husbandry efforts, and a presentation developed by the Office of Environment.

  • In-Water Hull Cleaning Pilot, Cape Orlando. In 2012, MARAD conducted an in-water hull cleaning pilot test under the oversight of the California San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) on the MARAD vessel CAPE ORLANDO in Alameda, California. The test demonstrated the successful containment and capture of the removed biological material and small amounts of anti-fouling paint through the use of a suction line on the discharge of the scrubber unit and a seal between the scrubber and the hull. As a result of the pilot test, the California San Francisco Bay RWQCB issued a fact sheet accepting the in-water hull cleaning test as an interim Best Management Practice (BMP) until such time as the State Water Quality Board completes further studies. MARAD has subsequently utilized this BMP in cleaning its vessels’ hulls. Click here to view the fact sheet.
  • With support and guidance from MARAD, the Alliance of Coastal Technologies and Maritime Environmental Resource Center have taken the lead on international efforts to facilaite the development and approval of ship biofouling in-water cleaning innovations. A collection of essays on the topic can be found here, here, here, and here.

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Vessel and Port Air Emissions

Air pollution results in substantial economic, environmental, and human health costs. Criteria pollutant and greenhouse gases include emissions from mobile transportation sources. Air pollution from large marine diesel engines has the potential to affect not just coastal and port communities, but also populations hundreds of miles away.

As with other modes of transportation, there are many potential methods for achieving reductions, such as cleaner burning fuels, emissions abatement equipment on board vessels, and more efficient design and operation of ships. In order for clean emissions initiatives to advance, there must be a process for assisting stakeholders in making decisions on the most beneficial approaches. Whether selecting alternative fuels or technology, the investment by industry is significant. Therefore, an important component of MARAD’s META Program is to test, evaluate and demonstrate the viability and applicability of alternative technologies, in order to generate data and information useful to the marine community, regulatory agencies and the public.

To assist policy makers, there is also a need for research and multimodal modeling to aid in assessing maritime transportation alternatives, and to determine whether equipment or energy substitutions are cost effective and able to achieve anticipated outcomes.

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Port Electrification and Energy Efficiency

Macroeconomic and Environmental Impacts of Port Electrification – MARAD partnered with the University of Delaware and the Rochester Institute of Technology to evaluate macroeconomic impacts associated with port electrification at four case study ports throughout the US. The report assesses economic impacts on a county and state level, jobs and economic growth, scenarios describing future-year potential benefits of electric technologies including regional economic activity and increased jobs at the state and county levels, and environmental impacts of electrification by shifting from local diesel engine operation to regional electric grid power. The report can be found here.

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Fuel-related Investigations

MARAD’s biofuel initiative began in 2010 and has since then grown into a multi-agency cooperative effort for testing of hydro-treated renewable biodiesels (HRD) on board MARAD-owned training ships and other vessels. The objective of the biofuel initiative is to assess the feasibility of using alternative renewable fuels in operating vessels, and to understand from empirical data the differences between these fuels and conventional petroleum-based fuels. MARAD is currently partnering with several of the Department of Energy national laboratories on additional, new biofuels research.

MARAD-sponsored projects have included testing of blended and neat fuels (unblended fuel) compared with ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) as baseline fuel on board the training ships both underway and pier-side. The onboard tests included engine performance and endurance tests, exhaust emission analysis, vibration monitoring, and underwater sound transmission. These tests were conducted in accordance with recognized standards, protocols, and guidelines developed by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and the EPA. Pre- and post-test engine and power plant conditions were also evaluated.

  • Update of Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) for Biofuels.  Working in partnership with Argonne National Laboratories, an update for biofuel pathways is evaluated using a new version of the GREET marine fuels module developed for this project. This new module includes several new marine biofuel pathways as well as updated pathways for conventional marine fuels and natural gas as a marine fuel. We updated the combustion emission factors using the best available data. The final report can be found here.
  • Alternative Biodiesel Testing 2011. MARAD partnered with the Navy, Army Corps of Engineers, the Coast Guard, NOAA and other stakeholders to conduct performance and endurance testing of HRD produced from algal feed stock. The fuel was provided by the Navy. The project included performance and endurance tests both underway and pier-side, pre- and post-test power plant evaluation, and fuel and lube oil analysis. MARAD also conducted exhaust emission and long-term fuel stability tests. 
  • Alternative Biodiesel Testing 2012. MARAD conducted performance and endurance testing of HRD produced from the fermentation of sugar in sorghum/sugar cane. Like the tests conducted in 2011, the tests also included exhaust emission monitoring, pre- and post-test power plant evaluation, and fuel and lube oil analysis. During this test, MARAD also conducted onboard machinery vibration and underwater sound transmission tests to collect and analyze data. Click here for the Renewable Deisel for Marine Application Final Report.
  • Alternative Biodiesel Testing 2013/14. Based upon the earlier tests, MARAD entered into a cooperative agreement with Scrips Institute of Oceanography (SIO) to conduct long-term tests of HRD fuels on board research vessels operated by SIO.
  • Renewable Diesel Fuel Oil Tests. The Scripps Institute of Oceanography constructed a portable test laboratory; procured neat HRD fuel produced from waste oils, conducted underway tests of the fuel, sampled engine exhaust emissions, and performed post-test engine evaluation. These tests have just been concluded. Click here for the final report.
  • Economic Analysis of Renewable Fuels for Maritime Propulsion.  To meet both growing fuel demand and more stringent air emissions regulations, MARAD recently worked with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to employ a preliminary techno-economic analysis of various biofuel pathways for the production of marine fuel. Click here for the final report.
  • MARAD and DOE are collaborating on an ongoing basis with the Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technology Office (BETO) and the National Laboratories to develop biofuels for marine application. The focus is price, feed stock choice, and scalability. A recent example of our mutual effort is found here.
  • Biofuel Adoption; Long-Term Price and Scalability Assessment. MARAD recognizes that one of the biggest challenges in the 21st Century is transforming the maritime transportation sector into a low carbon-based sustainable industry. Bioenergy has an essential role in the transition to move maritime shipping toward carbon neutrality. With inherently zero- or low-sulfur and renewable carbon sources, biofuels will help mitigate marine shipping sulfur emissions, improve overall emission profiles, and enable the decarbonization transition. As biofuel for marine propulsion is still at its nascent stage, knowledge gaps exist, including the life cycle environmental impacts, compatibility of biofuel blending with conventional marine fuels, scalability, and cost. This study assessed the biofuel availability and cost aspects for marine use and was supported by META to project the long-term price and annual biofuel production capacity potential for marine propulsion in the United States. Click here for final report.
  • Primer On Cost of Marine Fuels Compliant With IMO-2020 Rule.  MARAD partnered with Oak Ridge National Laboratories to analyze the cost of different approaches to compliance with the IMO mandate to reduce the sulfur content of marine fuels to no more than 0.5%, which came into effect on January 1st, 220. The report discusses different options for compliance including low-sulfur petroleum-based fuels and alternative scenarios regarding fuel prices, policy, and technology innovation. Click here for the final report.
  • Study of Marine Diesel Soot Emissions Using Oxygenated Fuel Blends. MARAD partnered with the Maine Maritime Academy (MMA) to explore the effectiveness of using glycerol as a fuel additive to reduce or eliminate PM emissions from diesel combustion.  Researchers at the MMA’s Marine Engine Testing and Emissions Laboratory (METEL) set up a combustion chamber to run the experiment.  Among other uses, METEL was designed to support research and development of practical solutions for emissions reductions and improved efficiency for marine diesel engines.  The methodology and results are detailed in the linked report. Click here for the report.
  • Biofouling Prevention Demonstration on Seawater Cooling System.  MARAD partnered with the Massachusetts Maritime Academy and Interphase Materials, Inc. performed a shipboard demonstration of a nano-surface treatment solution (THERMOPHASE) to reduce fouling on heat transfer surfaces and improve system efficiency.  THERMOPHASE was applied to test coupons and a demonstration chiller which operated for 115 days.  A significant reduction in biofouling was observed on both the test coupons and operating chiller treated with THERMOPHASE when compared to controls. Click here for the final report.
  • Project Nautilus: Introducing Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology Retrofit Hybrid Electric. MARAD partnered with Sandia National Laboratory and the Hornblower Group to design a hydrogen fuel cell application to be retrofitted on an existing passenger ferry operating in San Francisco.  Specifically, the design focused on replacing an auxiliary diesel generator with a fuel cell.  Hornblower submitted the design to the USCG Marine Safety Center and received a Design Basis Letter of Approval.  The report details can be found here.

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Fuel Cells

In 2014, MARAD began working with the Department of Energy (DOE) to investigate marine applications of fuel cells. The objective of this research is to identify new power plant technology that uses alternative energy, improves energy efficiency of the applications, and produces no harmful emissions at the point of use. One goal is to design, construct, and test prototype fuel cell generators (FCG) for port and shipboard applications in coordination with the classification societies, regulatory entities, and industry. A second goal is to provide basic research to be used to assist with the development of standards, rules, regulations, and protocols for marine applications of fuel cells.

  • Hydrogen Fuel Cell for Port and shipboard Marine Applications. In 2014, MARAD and DOE jointly funded a project to design, develop, construct, and test a containerized movable 100kW hydrogen FCG to provide electrical power in port and shipboard operations. The 100kW FCG was optimized to provide electrical power to ten refrigerated containers. The project has been closely coordinated with the regulatory and classification societies, applicable R&D groups and industries, and shipping companies. The prototype FCG was tested during 2015 and 2016 in interisland barge service in Hawaii. Click here for the fuel cell report.
  • SF BREEZE Feasibility Study. In 2015, MARAD funded a feasibility study for the design of a high-power (4.8MW) zero emission hydrogen fuel cell ferry, and the establishment of a hydrogen refueling capability in San Francisco Bay. The San Francisco Bay area Renewable Energy Electric Zero Emission (SF-BREEZE) ferry would carry 150 passengers at 35 knots along a regular 24 mile long route in San Francisco Bay. The design would comply with the existing international code for low-flash point fuels, and the project would help advance development of Federal and state standards and codes for such applications. The study will also evaluate the feasibility of installing a large hydrogen supply station for multi-modal use – cars, busses, trucks and marine vessels, and examine other issues such as vessel bunkering, fire protection, hazardous area determination, and cost considerations. The design group for the project is working with the regulatory entities, classification societies and the marine industry. The feasibility study has been completed and is available here.

Two other relevant studies are certain to be of interest here and here.

  • Feasibility Study of a Coastal Class Zero Emission Research Vessel (ZERo/V). MARAD funded a feasibility study for the design of an ocean-going hydrogen fuel cell powered research vessel and high throughout hydrogen fueling arrangements based on the owner/operator’s specific requirements. The project included a determination of the construction and operating cost estimates.

The study results are used to decide upon a Go/No-Go to proceed with a detailed design or conduct an optimization study of the vessel. Those study results are here.

  • Feasibility Study of Replacing the R/V Robert Gordon Sproul with a Hybrid Vessel Employing Zero-emission Propulsion Technology. This feasibility study assesses the applicability and design of hydrogen fuel-cell propulsion technology for a research vessel targeted as a replacement for the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) R/V Robert Gordon Sproul. General parameters of the study included vessel performance (scientific and instructional activities), budget, greenhouse gas emissions reductions, and regulatory compliance. As in previous studies, the design complies with the existing international code for low-flash point fuels, and the project would help advance development of Federal and state standards and codes for such applications. The feasibility study is available here
  • Algal Flow-way Technology and Fuel Cell Report. MARAD partnered with Maryland Port Administration (MPA) on an innovative demonstration project that established the feasibility of integrating an algal flow-way, anaerobic digesters, a biogas collection and conditioning unit, and a fuel cell to convert algae to energy. The project was designed, built, and operated to close the energy loop by using biogas produced from a water treatment best management practice to power a fuel cell that produced on-site electricity at the MPA Dundalk Marine Terminal. Reports on this project can be found herehere, and here.
  • Hydrogen Gas Dispersion Modeling – MARAD partnered with Sandia National Laboratories to conduct computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modeling to provide analysis necessary to answer remaining regulatory questions required to bring a hydrogen fuel cell vessel completely through the regulatory approval process and provide a deeper understanding of hydrogen release associated with fuel storage, in the fuel cell rooms, or at fuel cell exhaust hardware. The final report can be found here.

  • Maritime Fuel Cell (MarFC) Generator Project (2018 – 2023). In continued partnership with the DOE Fuel Cell Technology Office (FCTO), the META program further demonstrated a 100kW to provide shore power for the research vessel R/V Robert Gordon Sproul, owner and operated by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO). This report summarizes project activities and provides a review of lessons learned as well as next steps for supporting a follow-on project to further advance the use of fuel cell-based shore power in a maritime setting. The report, including presentations and references can be found here

  • Exploring Liquid Hydrogen Tank Technology for Zero-Emission Fuel Cell Vessels. The U.S. Maritime Administration’s Maritime Technical Assistance (MTA) program provided the funding for the following study to understand how LH2 tanks could be optimized for maritime use, and how that tank optimization could benefit the design, performance and cost of hydrogen fuel cell ships. It was accomplished under the guidance of Sandia National Laboratories, with assistance from Chart Industries and Glosten Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering Services. The report can be found here

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Maritime Decarbonization

Historically, META’s vessel and port emission reduction portfolio of projects has addressed criteria pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions.  In recent years, sector-wide decarbonization efforts are becoming more prominent, not solely focusing on vessel and ports but also encompassing other aspects of the broader maritime transportation system and supply chain.  Recognizing domestic and international goals, over the past several years META has supported more projects that specifically address the reduction of carbon and greenhouse emissions within the sector as a whole.  Results of this effort are designed to inform environmental policy mechanisms and industry stakeholder decision-making processes on “what works” for various operations.

  • Carbon Capture and Storage Study*NEW* MARAD partnered with Life Cycle Engineering to investigate the feasibility of shipboard carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology and conduct a technoeconomic analysis. CCS has been used for landside applications for many years however transferring those technology applications to a vessel has only recently been explored.   Both studies can be found here and here.
  • San Diego Bay, Carbon Sequestration Eelgrass Study (2021).  MARAD partnered with the San Diego Unified Port District to conduct a carbon sequestration and storage study on seagrass beds adjacent to the port.  There is growing recognition of the ability of wetlands and submerged aquatic vegetation to sequester and store large quantities of carbon.  San Diego Bay is of special interest for quantifying the carbon of seagrass beds because it contains approximately 15 percent of seagrass habitat within California. This informs not only the Port of San Diego but other U.S. ports seeking information and data on carbon sequestration and storage in submerged aquatic vegetation. The reports can be found here and here.

  • Maritime Decarbonization - San Diego Bay, Carbon Sequestration Eelgrass Study Phase II (2023). MARAD partnered with the San Diego Unified Port District to conduct its first study on carbon sequestration and storage in eelgrass beds. This study is a continuation of the initial study which will benefit not only the Port of San Diego but other U.S. ports and the maritime industry seeking information and data on carbon sequestration and storage in eelgrass beds. The summary and study are available here

  • Feasibility Study of Future Energy Options for Great Lakes Shipping.  MARAD partnered with the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) to study the feasibility if future fuel options for Great Lake’s shipping. The objective of the study was to investigate the suitability of different alternative fuels and power options in Great Lakes shipping through 2050. The study profiles the Great Lakes shipping industry to characterize energy use and air pollution associated with today’s ships, engines, and fuels; Great Lakes ports and bunkering infrastructure to determine access to existing and potential future alternative energy supply; reviews and evaluates the suitability of alternative fuel and power options; projects the suitability of those alternative fuel and power options out to 2050, taking into account different factors such as technological maturity, cost, lifecycle emissions etc.; and identifies domestic and international environmental regulations that may influence the uptake of those alternative energy options. The final report can be found here.  

Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)

LNG is a promising alternative marine fuel that can result in significant criteria pollutant reductions. Over the past five years, MARAD has partnered with a number of organizations to assess and, as appropriate, demonstrate the use of LNG for vessels. The objective of MARAD’s natural gas research is to address the numerous issues associated with the use of natural gas as marine fuel. Although several US flag vessel owners have announced plans to convert or have converted to dual fuel or LNG engines, there are many questions and challenges to the wide-spread use of LNG in maritime transportation. Among them are the feasibility of natural gas supply, liquefaction capacity, bunkering procedures, LNG storage aboard vessels, and methane slip and release, to name a few. MARAD, through the META Program, has been looking into a number of these issues as highlighted below:

  • Great Lakes Natural Gas Feasibility and Conceptual Engineering Design Study. MARAD partnered with the Great Lakes Maritime Research Institute (GLMRI) to study the feasibility of using natural on the Great Lakes. The study investigated shore-side and vessel infrastructure requirements, transportation and safety issues, and conceptual vessel engineering requirements. The study found that the use of LNG as a propulsion fuel is feasible but there are still barriers that need to be addressed, such as infrastructure and a reasonable return on investment for vessel conversions. Multi-sector, regional use of LNG can help reduce overall costs of infrastructure development. The study can be found here.
  • LNG Inland Waterway Study (Phase II). MARAD partnered with GLMRI to expand the Great Lakes Feasibility study to include the inland waterway system, focusing mainly on the Ohio River. The study provides regulatory analysis and a case study for LNG use along the Ohio River. The study can be found here.
  • Natural Gas for Waterborne Freight Transport: A Life Cycle Emissions Assessment with Case Studies. MARAD partnered with the University of Delaware (UDEL) and the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) to complete a “well-to-hull” or “total fuel cycle” air emissions analysis for natural gas use versus conventional fuels for three shipping scenarios. Using a total fuel cycle model provides users with a more complete quantitative analysis of upstream emissions, not just downstream at the point of combustion, and allows for more descriptive comparisons. The study can be found here.
  • Methane Emissions From Natural Gas Bunkering Operations in the Marine Sector:  A Total Fuel Cycle Approach. MARAD partnered with UDEL and RIT to expand the total fuel cycle analysis study to focus more on methane slip and fugitive emission associated with bunkering operations and combustion in vessel engines. Like CO2, methane is a greenhouse gas. Although methane is shorter lived than CO2, it is a more potent greenhouse gas. Thus, while NG substantially reduces criteria pollutants (SOx, NOx, and particulate matter), the total greenhouse gas contribution must be considered. This study helps to identify pathways through which methane may be lost during the bunkering (fueling) process and through combustion. The study can be found here.
  • Liquefied Natural Gas Bunkering Study. MARAD partnered with DNV-GL to study issues associated with LNG bunkering, infrastructure, and training. The study identifies regulatory gaps and provides risk assessment recommendations for future decisions related to LNG bunkering locations and infrastructure. The study can be found here.
  • LNG Demonstration Projects.  In 2015, MARAD funded two demonstration projects involving the use of LNG as vessel fuel.  One project involved the conversion of an inland regional tug.  The other conversion is of an oceangoing roll-on/roll-off vessel.  These projects assist in identifying issues associated with LNG use, factoring in the different operations profiles and environments between oceangoing and inland vessels.  The scope of both projects includes pre- and post-conversion emissions testing and reporting of any lessons learned.  Both projects are long term, 3-year projects.

    In the case of the tugboat project, MARAD partnered with the Pittsburgh Region Clean Cities to demonstrate a tugboat LNG project.  The project was designed to test off-the-shelf LNG fumigation technology on a feeder tug operating on the Ohio River.   The project was on track to completed in early 2020, however unforeseen issues such as changes in regulations and business conditions, coupled with a long design approval process, adversely affected the project timing.  Ultimately, carrying out the project as originally envisioned was not possible.  Although the project was ultimately terminated, the attached report details critical lessons learned and useful information that the industry should find useful. The report is available here.

    Results from the other demonstration project involving an oceangoing roll-on/roll-off vessel will be posted when available.

  • LNG Comparative Emissions Testing.  MARAD partnered with the University of California Riverside (UCR) to complete an emissions testing campaign on a liquefied natural gas (LNG) powered cargo ferry. The campaign measured criteria pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions while operating on LNG and low sulfur diesel fuel. As part of the campaign, UCR also partnered with the National Research Council Canada, the University of British Columbia, and Transport Canada. The study can be found here.

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Emission Reduction Technology

In addition to alternative fuels to reduce emissions, there are several technologies that can be applied directly to vessels or situated at ports to reduce air emissions. Technologies such as exhaust gas cleaning systems for vessels, shore power at ports, and the use of fuel cells all show promising emission reduction benefits. However, they can pose significant challenges for vessel and portside installation and operation.

  • Scrubber Guide. MARAD worked with the Ship Operator’s Cooperative Program (SOCP) to update the Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems Selection Guide (Guide). The Guide was developed to assist operators with determining what scrubbers are available, practical, and cost effective to meet existing North American Emission Control Area requirements. SOCP Products
  • Exhaust Gas Treatment System Demonstration. MARAD partnered with the Interlake Steamship Company to support a closed-loop scrubber demonstration project on the MV Lee A. Tregurtha. The demonstration project included verification of post-installation emissions and lessons learned from installation and operation of the scrubber. The final report is available here
  • Energy Efficiency White Paper. MARAD partnered with the Ship Operators Cooperative Program to produce a paper for ship owners and operators on energy efficiency measures for marine vessels. The report discusses how the various technologies work, potential fuel savings, applicability to various vessel types, and lifecycle costs, providing a basis upon which owners and operators can evaluate potential investments in efficiency measures and technologies. The white paper is available here.
  • Energy Efficiency and Decarbonization Technical Guide (2022). MARAD partnered with Glosten Inc. to produce a technical guide for the maritime industry on energy efficiency and decarbonization. The guide focuses on the state of energy efficiency and fuel technologies available, and overviews emerging technologies and operational measures that may contribute to improving efficiency and reducing GHG emissions in the long-term. It will serve as a reference for US and international owners/operators alike but is geared toward the vessel types that are characteristic of the US flag merchant fleet. The technical guide is available here.
  • Black Carbon Emissions. MARAD, in partnership with the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), supported a black carbon (BC) emissions research study. The study, performed by the University of California, Riverside (UCR), was designed to measure BC emissions using multiple measurement techniques and to better understand how engine operating conditions and fuel choice affect BC emission factors. Emissions were measured in a lab setting with a test-bed engine, as well as in the field on two oceangoing vessels. Results showed a good correlation of emission factors among some sampling devices, and that distillate fuel produced lower BC emissions compared to heavy fuel oil and low sulfur residual blends. The final report is available here.
  • Lifecycle Analysis of the Use of Methanol for Marine Transportation. MARAD partnered with the University of Delaware (UDEL) and the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) to complete life cycle emissions and energy analysis of methanol for marine transportation. Methanol life cycle emissions were compared to other marine fuels such as LNG, low sulfur conventional fuels, and heavy fuel oil blends. Using a total fuel cycle model provides users with a more complete quantitative analysis of upstream emissions, not just downstream at the point of combustion, and allows for more descriptive comparisons. The report can be found here.
  • Motor Demonstration Project META partnered with the Massachusetts Maritime Academy (MMA) and E-circuit Motors (ECM) to demonstrate a new, light-weight motor in a field application aboard the Training Ship Kennedy. The demonstration project consisted of replacing an existing 3 HP motor on a ventilation fan with a motor from ECM. Several tests were run to determine overall efficiency of the new motor. Those tests included system and controller efficiency, verification of motor constants, gauss measurements to check for flux leakage, thermal tests, and measurement of additional windage/bearing losses. The report can be found here.
  • IMO 2020 Low Sulfur Fuel and Lubrication Concerns.  MARAD partnered with Oak Ridge National Laboratories to analyze anticipated issues associated with ship operations with the handling of very low sulfur heavy fuel oils, which will be required under the 2020 IMO sulfur cap ruling, which lowers the sulfur content in heavy fuel oils from 3.5 to 0.5%.  Subject areas include impacts to fuel compatibility, lubrication, engine damage, microbial contamination, and fuel handling. The reduced fuel sulfur content greatly impacts engine lubrication.  New formulations, and possibly protocols, are being developed to minimize deposit formation.  The Final Report is here.
  • Blockchain Technology and Maritime Shipping Primer. MARAD partnered with the University of Delaware and the Rochester Institute of Technology to develop a primer on the use of Blockchain technology for the maritime sector.  The report explores the potential for blockchain in the maritime sector and sheds light on if and how blockchain might align with—or run counter to—goals and objectives of stakeholders in the maritime sector. The report also provides advice on how stakeholders can best evaluate, and where appropriate support, the use of blockchain to meet their goals and objectives. The challenges discussed here are specific to the maritime sector, but are relevant to any agency from the local, state, and federal level when considering blockchains for energy and transportation issues.  The primer report can be found here. A separate report on use cases can be found here.
  • Thermal Energy Harvesting and Conversion Demonstration Report. MARAD partnered with Collins Aerospace to demonstrate a waste heat recovery device on the training ship GOLDEN BEAR.  Low-grade waste heat was recovered from the ship’s service diesel generators and utilized as the heat source for a prototype adsorption chiller.  The chiller operated during the 2023 summer cruise providing cooling to the machine shop.  The cooling capacity for the chiller was measured and a simple business case developed for payback based on the installation and energy savings.  The report and its findings can be found here.

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Multimodal Modeling

Understanding how marine vessels operate is critical to determining emission profiles. Marine vessels are only one component of regional mobile source emissions within the freight transportation system. Until recently, delineating what emissions marine vessels contribute regionally was a challenge. Partnering with the UDEL and the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), MARAD works to develop emissions modeling tools to assist policy and transportation analysts in determining multimodal emissions.

  • Total Emissions Analysis of Marine Emissions (TEAMS). TEAMS is a well-to-hull emissions assessment tool, based on the Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use (GREET) algorithm that allows users to quantify lifecycle emissions for marine vessels in comparison with land-side transportation.
  • Geospatial Intermodal Freight Transport (GIFT). A Geographic Information System (GIS)-based, multimodal freight routing tool that allows users to quantify energy use and emissions between origin and destination pairs. MARAD supported GIFT development primarily for multimodal emissions analyses and congestion case studies. GIFT is operated through a partnership between the University of Delaware and the RIT.
  • WebGIFTWebGIFT was developed for government agencies, transportation planners, and policy analysts to have easy access to a simplified version of the GIFT tool through the internet. WebGIFT provides basic optimization analyses and can be customized
  • EmissionsCalcEmissionsCalc is a single point emissions calculation tool for multimodal uses. EmissionsCalc uses the latest emission factors and allows for high customization of vehicle preferences.
  • GREET Update. MARAD partnered with Argonne National Laboratories (ANL), with the help of the University of Delaware and the RIT, to expand the marine module within GREET to include potential biofuels for marine applications, including bio-intermediaries and bio-blends for marine engine use. The final report is here.

In recent years MARAD advertised RFPs for vessel emissions reduction demonstration projects in an effort to obtain in-situ emissions data and determine public and private cost/benefits. Since 2012, MARAD has funded several engine repower projects and alternative technology demonstration projects.

  • Inland Tug Repower. MARAD worked with the Southeast Missouri Regional Planning Commission to repower an inland tugboat, replacing unregulated engines with Tier 3 engines. Results of the project showed significant reduction of criteria pollutants. Click here for the final report.
  • Harbor Tug Repower. MARAD partnered with the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (PSCAA) to repower a harbor tug from unregulated engines to Tier 2 engines. Results showed a significant reduction of emissions and a quick return on investment. That rapid return on investment allowed the operator to invest in additional repowers. Other highlights of this project included broad partnerships with the Washington Department of Ecology and a local community college. Based on these successes, the PSCAA set up a separate harbor craft repower grant. Click here for the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency Project Report 2015.

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Hybrid and Batteries

Battery risk assessment study. MARAD partnered with Foss Maritime to conduct a battery risk assessment study for their hybrid tugs, the results of which can be found here.

December 2016 Marine Hi-Power Battery Workshop. Hi-power Li-ion battery technology has progressed significantly over the past ten years and has found application in many industry sectors, such as the consumer electronics, energy, and transportation. To address new domestic and international rules and regulations, and the increasing costs of marine diesel fuel (particularly low sulfur diesel fuel), the maritime industry explored the use of alternative energy and multi-source energy hybrid technologies. Hi-power battery technology, such as fuel cell technology, is now being viewed more broadly as a potentially viable technology in maritime applications. However, application in the maritime environment (particularly on ships) is complex, with some recent Li-ion battery accidents highlighting the need for additional research and planning.

  • The main objective of the Workshop was to bring stakeholders together to explore the state-of-the-art Li-ion battery technology, identify gaps in knowledge as it relates to maritime applications, and development of standards and guidelines for safe application of this technology.
  • The two-day public Workshop was attended by representatives from: battery manufacturers, ship owners and operators, integrators, shipyards, ports, academia, classification, and regulatory agencies (domestic and foreign), standards organizations, and Federal interagency partners.
  • A key overarching theme running through the Workshop was that addressing the gaps and pursuing innovation in this area will require strong collaboration among the battery manufacturers, power management and integration experts, and designers, ship owners, and operators.
  • As a result of the workshop, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) formed an industry lead task group to develop some the required standards for safe marine application of the battery technology. Also, Det Norske Veritas-Germanischer Lloyd (DNV-GL), certification body and classification society, with other entities have organized a Joint Development Project (CDP) to identify and conduct the needed research and technology development and develop the classification rules for safe application of Li ion battery technology.
  • Transcript is now available at below links:
  • A copy of the live stream may be viewed at below links:

AEP Hybrid. MARAD partnered with AEP River Operations, renamed as ACBL River Operations LLC, to design, fabricate, laboratory test and install a power take-off (PTO) unit for one of the main engines. This PTO will provide auxiliary power to the vessel while underway, thereby obviating the need to operate the auxiliary diesel generator. This is expected to result in fuel savings and reduced aggregate air emissions from the vessel. The final report is here.

Battery Electrification Techno-Economic Analysis study. MARAD partnered with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to broadly analyze the technological feasibility as well as the theoretical costs and benefits of electrifying a segment of the U.S. Domestic Fleet. This analysis was conducted using available vessel databases and was limited to vessels less than 1000 GT. The results of this analysis can be found here.

Autonomous Systems for Environmental Applications

  • Demo of Remote and Autonomous Oil Skimming Vessel – MARAD partnered with Sea Machines to demonstrate remote and autonomous technology aboard a Kvichak MARCO oil boom skimming workboat.  Nearly 200 of these specialized workboats are strategically deployed throughout the United States where rapid spill response is required.  The objective of automating the workboat was to improve worker safety in hazardous operating conditions and reduce crew fatigue.  Results and lessons learned from the demonstration project may be found here.
  • Emissions Comparison of a Marine Vessel Under Autonomous and Manual Control– MARAD partnered with Sea Machines and the Maine Maritime Academy to compare emissions from a workboat using autonomous and manual modes. A 41-foot diesel powered research vessel was outfitted with an autonomous control system and measurement instrumentation for determining gaseous emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), Total Unburned Hydrocarbons (THC), and oxides of sulfur (SOx).  Results and lessons learned from the demonstration project may be found here

Alternate Fuel Spill Study


The topic of the research is the predicted impact of large spills or releases of alternative marine fuels. The fuels covered are those that have been identified as potential future fuels for the marine shipping sector by industry experts and government agencies overseeing the development of renewable and low-carbon fuels. Several of these fuels are already in use, such as liquefied natural gas, renewable diesel, ethanol, methanol, and biodiesel.

The property databases of these fuels are extensive enough to form predictive assessments. Other potential marine fuels, such as lignin ethanol, have not been extensively evaluated and are therefore not included is this study. For each fuel chemistry, the spill profiles and environmental impacts based on existing studies and relevant properties are identified. The technologies used to detect spills (especially those for crude oil detection) are also reviewed for their applicability with alternative fuels, and in some instances, recommendations to improve these technologies for use with a particular fuel chemistry are put forward. Finally, current containment and remediation technologies are reviewed and assessed for their efficacy at handling these alternative fuels. The final study report can be found here.



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