Methanol Bunkers Were The Top Choice in 2023 for Alternatively Fuelled Ship Orders

by Ship & Bunker News Team
Tuesday January 9, 2024
  • Total of 284 alternatively fuelled ships ordered in 2023 up 8% y-o-y
  • Methanol had 138 orders, up from 35 in 2022
  • Majority of methanol orders are retrofits
  • LNG saw 130 ship orders in 2023 down from 222 in 2022
  • LNG passes the 1,000 vessel mark for combined orders and in operation
  • First orders made for ammonia-powered tonnage (11)
  • 5 hydrogen-powered vessels ordered, down from 18 in 2022
  • Oil the most popular choice overall in accounting for 85% of new contracts in 2023

While oil-based bunkers remained the overwhelming choice for new vessel orders in 2023, methanol bested LNG as the top choice last year for alternatively fuelled ship orders, according to the latest data from DNV's Alternative Fuels Insight (AFI) platform.

"A big shout out to the methanol bunker industry which established itself as a mainstream technology option in 2023, and managed to go neck and neck with LNG in a record time!" Martin Wold, Principal Consultant in DNV's Maritime Advisory, said in a post on LinkedIn.

In total there were 138 orders for methanol-powered vessels in 2023 (exlcuindg 14 methanol carriers that were also ordered) a huge increase on the 35 ordered in 2022.

In contrast LNG saw 130 ship orders in 2023 (excluding LNG carriers), a sharp decline from the 222 ordered in 2022.

Still, the orders were enough to propell the alternative fuel past the 1,000 vessel mark in terms of the number of LNG-powered ships in operation and on order. 

Methanol's impressive growth looks to have been helped by it being more attractive than LNG as a retrofit option, thanks in part to its onboard handling characteristics being far closer to conventional fuels.

Indeed, with Søren Toft, CEO of MSC, the world's largest shipping company, telling Ship & Bunker last year he believed methanol "will be one of the preeminent retrofit options" for ships, DNV noted that a large number of last year's methanol orders were retrofits.

"When looking at newbuilds alone LNG would be in the lead [in terms of alterntaive fuel orders]," DNV said.

With a combined 268 vessels, methanol and LNG dominated the alternative fuel choices made last year.

In all a total of 284 ships (or 298 inclduing methanol carriers) with alternative fuel propulsion systems were ordered in 2023, an 8% increase year on year.

The year also saw the first orders for ammonia-powered vessels, with 11 placed.

Five hydrogen-powered vessels were also ordered in 2023, a fall from 18 placed in 2022.

While alternative fuels continue to get the headlines, conventional oil-based bunkers were still by far the dominant fuel choice overall for new vessel orders, making up 85% of new contracts in 2023.

Just under 85% of the global order book as a whole are also opting for conventional bunker fuels.