The development of classification rules for ships using decarbonized fuels and new propulsion systems

The use of decarbonized fuels produced from renewable energy and of alternative propulsion systems bring new challenges to demonstrate an equivalent level of safety when compared to conventional fuels and propulsion systems. Bureau Veritas contributes to address those challenges by developing classification rules and guidelines for ships using new fuels (such as methanol, ammonia or hydrogen) and alternative propulsion systems.

Main project's drivers for reducing the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions

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Energy and resource efficiency

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Energy Decarbonisation

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Energy efficiency improvements

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Improving efficiency in non-energy resources

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Emission removal

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Financing low-carbon issuers or disinvestment from carbon assets

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Reduction of other greenhouse gases emission

Project objectives

The International Maritime Organization has defined a strategy for the shipping industry to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% in 2050 compared to the 2008 level. The development of industrial solutions is well underway to meet the IMO objectives and tackle the energy transition.

New fuels and new propulsion systems will be key enablers providing an alternative to today’s hydrocarbon based systems to decarbonize the shipping industry.

New fuels being considered are, as follows:

  • Green hydrogen, produced by water electrolysis using renewable electricity;
  • Green methanol, synthetized by renewable electricity from green hydrogen and CO2 coming from carbon capture or from biomass;
  • Green ammonia, synthetized by renewable electricity from green hydrogen and nitrogen from air

New propulsion systems include:

  • Wind propulsion systems – rotors, sails, wingsails, kites
  • Electric-hybrid / battery systems
  • Fuel cells

Design, production and onboard integration of innovative systems and components for wind propulsion and the use of new fuels represent significant industrial and regulatory challenges to ensure an equivalent level of safety when compared to conventional fuels and systems. The technical rules for safe bunkering, storage, handling and power conversion of new fuels onboard ships are to be developed while learning and gaining experience with technical innovations in order to accelerate their use.

Bureau Veritas contributes to the development of these decarbonized solutions by :

  • Developing classification rules and guidelines for the use of methanol, ammonia and hydrogen as fuel
  • Developing classification rules for wind propulsion and wind assisted propulsion.
Detailed project description

Bureau Veritas is addressing the challenges of sustainability and the energy transition by providing solutions to the safety, risk and performance requirements for innovation in future fuels and propulsion systems.


The role of Bureau Veritas is to provide support and in-depth knowledge to protect people, ships and offshore structures, going beyond the scope of individual projects to find new ways to anticipate and manage risk across the industry, promoting safety and health, and protecting the marine environment. We work with the industry to support innovation via new rules and tools.


Flag State administrations worldwide rely on Bureau Veritas to verify the implementation of international and national regulations on marine safety and environmental protection (IMO SOLAS conventions for the safety of human life at sea and IMO MARPOL for the prevention of pollution from ships, for example).


The development of technical rules is the cornerstone of classification societies. Classification and statutory certificates are essential for the operation of ships. Marine insurers require this type of certificates to insure them, and port authorities regularly check their validity when a ship calls in a port. Likewise, it is essential for operators to ensure that offshore units comply with safety; quality standards and regulatory requirements.


Considering the current shipping world trends in terms of research and innovation to meet the challenge of decarbonizing the industry, we consider it is essential to bring technical expertise in the form of “Guidance Notes” or “Tentative Rules” as appropriate for:

– Methanol (and ethanol), ammonia and hydrogen as fuels, developing technical classification rules considering available statutory regulations. These technical rules include requirements for the general design of the ship and the associated safety assessment, the design and location of the bunkering systems, tanks, fuel pipes and associated systems, materials used, power conversion systems (engines, fuel cells), safety with regards to the risks of fire, explosion, toxicity, ventilation and the various monitoring and control systems.

– Wind propulsion by developing technical classification rules which include requirements for wind energy conversion systems (sails, rigid sails), their integration on board and their connection to the ship’s structure, safety of the vessel (stability, mobile systems) as well as the various monitoring and control systems.


Our rules are developed through a thoughtful and comprehensive process with input from different stakeholders. They are regularly assessed and updated to reflect the latest progress. The following rules and guidelines are/will be available

  • Note for “Methanol and Ethanol as fuel”
  • Note for « Ammonia as fuel »
  • Note for « Fuel Cells » and « Hydrogen as fuel » (already available, being updated)
  • Note for « Wind propulsion » (already available)

Emission scope(s)

on which the project has a significant impact

Scope 1

Direct emissions generated by the company's activity.

Scope 2

Indirect emissions associated with the company's electricity and heat consumption.

Scope 3

Emissions induced (upstream or downstream) by the company's activities, products and/or services in its value chain.

Emission Removal

Carbon sinks creation, (BECCS, CCU/S, …)

Avoided Emissions

Emissions avoided by the activities, products and/or services in charge of the project, or by the financing of emission reduction projects.

Avoided Emissions – Classification rules and guidelines help to develop and use new technologies that contribute to reduce GHG : 

  • Quantification : 6,7 million tons of CO2 / year between 2025 and 2050, for shipowners classing their ships with Bureau Veritas.

– Emissions 2018 :

  • Worldwide emissions of international maritime transport in 2018: 1056 million tons of CO2 
  • Worldwide fleet ratio classed with Bureau Veritas : 8% (fleet ratio giving 85 million tons of CO2 in 2018 for the fleet classed with Bureau Veritas)

– Emissions 2050 : Projection of worldwide CO2 for international maritime transport in 2050 (Source: International Maritime Organization – IMO):

  •  2500 million tons of CO2, « business as usual » scenario, or
  • 397 million tons of CO2, meeting the IMO objectives

– Contribution of fleet classed with Bureau Veritas :

  • Worldwide fleet ratio classed with Bureau Veritas in 2050 : 8%, which gives:
    • 200 million tons of CO2, « business as usual » scenario, or
    •  32 million tons of CO2, using new fuels and technologies meeting the IMO objectives

Ships built with onboard technologies for decarbonized energy will be deployed significantly from 2025, with a gain for BV classed ships estimated

Key points

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Invested amount

700 k€ investment per year

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Starting date of the project

January 2020

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Project localisation


Project maturity level

Prototype laboratory test (TRL 7)

Real life testing (TRL 7-8)

Pre-commercial prototype (TRL 9)

Small-scale implementation

Medium to large scale implementation

Economic profitability of the project (ROI)

Short term (0-3 years)

Middle term (4-10 years)

Long term (> 10 years)

Illustrations of the project

Through this, BV contributes to the following SDGs :

  • SDG 6 – Clean water and sanitation
  • SDG 7 – Affordable and clean energy
  • SDG 13 – Climate action

Reproducibility is unlimited as classification rules are applicable worldwide.

Several partnerships have been engaged:

  • Collaborative projects in France and in Europe:
    • PACBOAT project funded by ADEME with Chantiers de l’Atlantique, CEA and Entrepose to develop and integrate a fuel cell onboard a cruise ship;
    • Project « Silentseas » with Chantiers de l’Atlantique
  • Participation to WATERBORNE European technology platform to contribute to the preparation of european R&D programmes
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Bureau Veritas' other projects