Maritime hydrogen users. Study on the hydrogen needs of Germany’s maritime sector

Maritime sector can shape energy transition and strengthen Germany’s role as a location for business and industry.
25 July 2023
Capt. Runa Jörgens

Capt. Runa Jörgens

Head of Issues and Projects/Shipping

Phone: +49 40 9999 698 - 71
E-Mail: Joergens[at]

Gunther Zeitzmann

Gunther Zeitzmann

Research Coordinator Regulations and Standards

Phone: +49 40 9999 698 – 72
E-Mail: Zeitzmann[at]

The use of climate-friendly hydrogen and its derivatives (methanol, ammonia, e-liquid natural gas and e-diesel) will become necessary in order to achieve national [1] as well as international [2] climate targets.

In addition to renewable electricity, hydrogen and hydrogen-based fuels will be the most widely used energy sources in the medium term. The use of these alternatives to fossil fuels makes sense from an ecological point of view. Those who create the necessary infrastructure for hydrogen at an early stage will gain a competitive advantage here. This is being discussed intensively in industry and politics. The first projects have already been planned and started.[3]

It is acknowledged that the maritime sector, as a means of transport (ships) and distribution (ports), has a special role to play in supplying Germany with hydrogen and hydrogen-based energy sources.[4] In this respect it contributes not only to maritime sovereignty, but also to national sovereignty.

In this discussion, however, it is often forgotten that the maritime industry in Germany also wants to use alternative fuels. It is therefore expected to be a user of hydrogen (or its derivatives) as well. Therefore, it is necessary to know which hydrogen technologies are to be used in the maritime sector and what quantities of hydrogen or hydrogen-based energy sources are likely to be required.


In order to determine this demand, the German Maritime Centre has commissioned Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik GmbH to conduct a study to determine which hydrogen technologies are to be used in the maritime sector. At the same time, an assessment is to be made of the quantities that will be needed in the short, medium and long term.

In the study, an overview of applications by sub-sectors (shipping, ports, shipbuilding and suppliers, marine technology) was compiled and the quantities of hydrogen needed in each case were estimated.

The survey indicates the amount of hydrogen required for the maritime sector and thus contributes to an even better estimation of the necessary demand for hydrogen (and its derivatives) for the German economy.

Unlike in the past, the maritime sector will not rely on a separate energy source (heavy oil). In the future, maritime shipping in particular will become a competitor to other users, i.e. other industries and modes of transport, in the distribution of hydrogen or its derivatives.

The study concludes that Germany’s maritime sector will have a long-term demand for more than 3.5 million tonnes of hydrogen or hydrogen-based fuels per year.

The demand will not stem exclusively from Germany. The German merchant fleet [5] will have to meet its demand internationally, depending on the trading areas of the respective ships. But the same applies to the international merchant fleet (which will want to bunker in German ports). The projection can therefore be helpful in calculating the bunkering supplies of hydrogen and hydrogen-based fuels that may have to be kept in German seaports.

As mentioned at the outset, large quantities of hydrogen or hydrogen-based fuels will arrive in Germany by ship via German ports. In order for a bunkering infrastructure for hydrogen-based fuels to be established, German ports must further establish themselves as energy hubs for hydrogen and hydrogen-based fuels. A side effect will probably be the conversion of port handling equipment to hydrogen-based fuels.


The maritime sector will take on a new and central role in the energy market, as a user and distributor of hydrogen and hydrogen-based fuels. Without it, the energy transition in Germany will not succeed.

Internationally, the German maritime sector can be a pioneer through its innovative strength, especially in the maritime supply industry.  German suppliers have the capacity to further expand their position in the development of climate-neutral propulsion systems. The export quota of the German supplier industry is over 75%.[6] The most important foreign sales markets are the EU, followed by China, North America and South Korea.[7] Another lever is the German merchant fleet, which is the fifth largest in the world with about 1700 ships [8], and will be converted to climate-neutral propulsion systems.

In order to be able to use the opportunities that lie in the conversion of shipping to climate-neutral propulsion systems and the expansion of German ports as energy hubs, a joint strategy of all maritime stakeholders is required. Such a strategy, and further coordination with other industries and sectors, offers the potential for the maritime sector to become the driving force for the substitution and distribution of alternative energies.

The German Maritime Centre, as a link between industry, science and administration, is ready to support this process.

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