Energy Efficient Onboard Systems for Ships

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Energy-efficient onboard systems encompass a range of technologies and practices aimed at reducing the energy consumption of a ship’s auxiliary systems, which power everything from lighting and ventilation to cargo handling and water treatment.

Impact on climate action

Energy-Efficient Onboard Systems drastically reduce carbon emissions in marine transportation, crucial for combating climate change. By optimizing power consumption and reducing fuel usage, this innovation minimizes environmental impact, contributing significantly to global efforts for a sustainable, low-carbon future, particularly vital in the maritime sector’s transition to cleaner technologies.


  • Waste Heat Recovery: Capturing and reusing waste heat from the main engine and other onboard systems to generate electricity or provide heating, significantly reducing fuel consumption.
  • Advanced Engine Management Systems: Optimizing engine operation through real-time monitoring, data analytics, and intelligent control systems, ensuring maximum efficiency and minimizing fuel waste.
  • Energy-Efficient Lighting and HVAC: Utilizing LED lighting, smart ventilation systems, and optimized insulation to reduce energy consumption for lighting, heating, and cooling onboard.
  • Power Management Systems: Intelligent power management systems can balance and optimize energy distribution across various onboard systems, minimizing energy losses and ensuring efficient operation.
  • Digitalization and Automation: Digital technologies and automation can streamline onboard processes, improve data collection and analysis, and enable more efficient operation of various systems.

TRL : Variable (7-9)

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) Systems: These systems use a thermodynamic cycle to convert waste heat into electricity, offering a highly efficient and reliable method for waste heat recovery.
  • Hybrid Energy Storage Systems: Integrating batteries or other energy storage technologies with onboard systems can provide greater flexibility in managing energy demand and improve efficiency.
  • Smart Ventilation and Air Conditioning: Systems that use sensors and AI to adjust ventilation and air conditioning based on real-time occupancy and environmental conditions, reducing unnecessary energy consumption.
  • Digital Twin Technology: Creating a digital representation of a ship and its systems to simulate and optimize performance, identify potential issues, and improve energy efficiency.
  • Predictive Maintenance: Utilizing data analytics and machine learning to predict maintenance needs, minimizing downtime and ensuring optimal system performance.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Waste Heat Recovery Solutions
  • Energy-Efficient Lighting Innovations
  • Smart HVAC Systems
  • Intelligent Power Management Solutions
  • Automation for Energy Efficiency
  • Organic Rankine Cycle Integration
  • Hybrid Energy Storage Integration
  • AI-Driven Ventilation Control
  • Real-Time Environmental Monitoring
  • Digital Twin Implementation
  • Performance Simulation Tools
  • Predictive Maintenance Systems
  • Energy-Efficient Cargo Handling
  • Water Treatment Optimization
  • Fuel Consumption Analytics
  • Emissions Reduction Strategies
  • Energy-Efficient Propulsion Systems
  • Sustainable Shipping Practices

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Climeon:
    • Technology Focus: Climeon specializes in converting low-temperature waste heat into clean electricity. Their innovative technology, based on the Rankine cycle, allows for efficient utilization of heat from various sources, such as industrial processes, geothermal energy, and marine engines.
    • Uniqueness: Climeon’s system stands out for its compact size, scalability, and ability to generate electricity from sources that would otherwise go unused. Their solution helps industries and ships reduce energy costs and carbon emissions while improving overall efficiency.
    • End-User Segments: Their target segments include industries with significant waste heat generation, such as manufacturing, power generation, and maritime, where energy efficiency is crucial for both economic and environmental reasons.
  • WE Tech Solutions:
    • Technology Focus: WE Tech Solutions focuses on providing energy-efficient solutions for the maritime industry. Their portfolio includes hybrid propulsion systems, energy storage solutions, and advanced control systems aimed at optimizing fuel consumption and reducing emissions in ships.
    • Uniqueness: WE Tech Solutions distinguishes itself by offering integrated systems tailored specifically for maritime applications, combining various technologies to maximize energy efficiency and environmental sustainability.
    • End-User Segments: Their solutions cater to shipowners, shipyards, and operators looking to comply with increasingly stringent environmental regulations while improving operational efficiency and reducing fuel costs.
  • ABB Marine & Ports:
    • Technology Focus: ABB Marine & Ports offers a wide range of technologies and solutions for energy-efficient onboard systems in the maritime industry. This includes electric propulsion systems, automation and control systems, shore connection solutions, and digitalization tools aimed at optimizing vessel performance and energy consumption.
    • Uniqueness: ABB’s strength lies in its comprehensive portfolio of products and services covering various aspects of onboard systems, from propulsion to power management to vessel automation. Their solutions are known for their reliability, efficiency, and integration capabilities.
    • End-User Segments: ABB serves a diverse range of customers in the maritime sector, including shipowners, shipyards, and operators of commercial vessels, ferries, cruise ships, and offshore platforms, where energy efficiency and sustainability are top priorities.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT):
    • Technology Enhancements: MIT researchers are pioneering the development of energy-efficient onboard systems for low-carbon marine vessels through the integration of advanced propulsion systems, smart energy management techniques, and renewable energy sources like wind and solar.
    • Uniqueness of Research: MIT’s approach involves leveraging cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence and IoT (Internet of Things) sensors to optimize the performance of onboard systems in real-time. This allows for adaptive control strategies that maximize fuel efficiency and reduce emissions while ensuring vessel safety and reliability.
    • End-use Applications: The research at MIT has significant implications for various maritime industries, including shipping, cruise lines, and offshore energy production. By implementing energy-efficient onboard systems, operators can reduce operating costs, comply with environmental regulations, and contribute to global efforts to combat climate change.
  • Technical University of Denmark (DTU):
    • Technology Enhancements: DTU’s research focuses on developing innovative propulsion and power generation systems for low-carbon marine vessels, including fuel-efficient engines, hybrid electric propulsion systems, and advanced battery technologies.
    • Uniqueness of Research: DTU’s approach involves a holistic analysis of onboard energy consumption and emissions, considering factors such as vessel design, operational profile, and environmental conditions. This systems-level perspective enables the optimization of onboard systems for maximum efficiency and environmental performance.
    • End-use Applications: The research at DTU has applications across the marine transportation sector, including ferries, cargo ships, and fishing vessels. By adopting energy-efficient onboard systems, operators can reduce their carbon footprint, improve air quality in coastal regions, and enhance the sustainability of maritime transportation.
  • University of Strathclyde:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at the University of Strathclyde are focusing on developing novel energy harvesting and storage technologies for low-carbon marine vessels, such as wave energy converters, hydrogen fuel cells, and advanced energy storage systems.
    • Uniqueness of Research: The University of Strathclyde’s research integrates expertise in marine engineering, renewable energy, and materials science to address the unique challenges of low-carbon marine propulsion and power generation. They are exploring innovative solutions that harness the natural resources of the ocean while minimizing environmental impact.
    • End-use Applications: The research at the University of Strathclyde has implications for a wide range of marine applications, including offshore wind farms, marine research vessels, and autonomous underwater vehicles. By developing energy-efficient onboard systems, the university aims to support the transition towards a sustainable blue economy while promoting technological innovation and economic growth.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Energy-efficient onboard systems are being commercially implemented across the maritime industry. Waste heat recovery systems, advanced engine management systems, and energy-efficient lighting and HVAC are increasingly being adopted by shipping companies seeking to reduce operational costs and minimize environmental impact. For example, several cruise ships have installed Climeon’s ORC systems, leading to significant fuel savings and emission reductions.