Riding the Green Wave: India Embarks on a Hydrogen-Powered Maritime Future

The maritime industry, a crucial pillar of global trade, faces mounting pressure to reduce its environmental footprint. Enter green hydrogen, a clean-burning fuel with the potential to revolutionize shipping and propel the industry towards a sustainable future. Recognizing this potential, India has taken a bold step by launching a program to support the retrofitting of existing vessels to run on green hydrogen. This blog delves into the details of this program, explores its potential impact on the maritime industry, and examines the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Setting Sail for Sustainability: India’s Green Hydrogen Gambit

In February 2024, India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) unveiled a groundbreaking scheme titled “Scheme Guidelines for Implementation of Pilot Projects for Use of Hydrogen in the Shipping Sector under the National Green Hydrogen Mission (NGHM).” This scheme aims to support pilot projects for retrofitting existing vessels to operate on hydrogen, a clean fuel produced using renewable energy sources.

This initiative aligns with India’s ambitious National Green Hydrogen Mission, launched in January 2023, which aims to establish the country as a global leader in green hydrogen production, usage, and exports. By promoting the use of hydrogen in the maritime sector, India seeks to:

  • Reduce GHG Emissions: Shipping contributes significantly to global greenhouse gas emissions. Utilizing hydrogen eliminates tailpipe emissions from vessels, offering a clean alternative to fossil fuels.
  • Enhance Energy Security: Dependence on imported fossil fuels exposes nations to price fluctuations and geopolitical uncertainties. Green hydrogen, produced domestically using renewable energy sources, can bolster energy security.
  • Boost Economic Growth: The green hydrogen industry holds immense potential for job creation and economic growth, particularly in India.

Navigating the Waters: Key Features of the Program

The pilot program offers financial assistance for various stages of green hydrogen retrofits, including:

  • Feasibility Studies: Funding to assess the technical and economic viability of converting specific vessels to hydrogen operation.
  • Design and Engineering: Support for developing detailed engineering plans for the retrofitting process.
  • Procurement and Installation: Financial assistance for procuring and installing necessary equipment, including fuel cells and hydrogen storage tanks.

The program prioritizes projects involving diverse vessel types, such as:

  • Coastal Vessels: Short-sea shipping vessels operating within Indian waters.
  • Ferries: Passenger and cargo ferries operating on fixed routes.
  • Harbor Tugs: Vessels assisting larger ships within ports and harbors.

Furthermore, the program emphasizes the development of domestic green hydrogen production infrastructure to ensure a sustainable fuel supply for retrofitted vessels.

Charting the Course: Challenges and Opportunities

While the program represents a significant step towards greener shipping, challenges remain:

  • High Costs: Retrofitting vessels for hydrogen operation is currently expensive, requiring substantial financial investment.
  • Limited Infrastructure: The availability of dedicated hydrogen bunkering facilities for refueling ships remains limited.
  • Technological Maturity: Greenhydrogen technology for large-scale maritime applications is still evolving, requiring further development and testing.

Despite these challenges, several factors inspire optimism:

  • Government Support: India’s strong commitment to green hydrogen, exemplified by the National Green Hydrogen Mission and the pilot program, provides a conducive environment for innovation and adoption.
  • Industry Collaboration: Leading shipping companies, technology developers, and energy providers are joining forces to overcome technical and economic hurdles.
  • Sustainability Imperative: The urgent need to decarbonize the maritime industry creates a powerful driver for exploring and implementing clean alternatives like green hydrogen.

Anchoring a Sustainable Future: The Maritime Hydrogen Horizon

India’s initiative sets a powerful precedent for the global maritime industry, showcasing the potential of green hydrogen to propel ships towards a cleaner future. While challenges exist, collaborative efforts, technological advancements, and continued government support can pave the way for wider adoption of this promising technology. By embracing hydrogen, the maritime industry can chart a course towards a more sustainable future, protecting the environment and ensuring a clean and prosperous ocean economy for generations to come.


India’s green hydrogen ship retrofit program is a bold step towards a cleaner maritime future. While challenges remain, the potential benefits – reduced emissions, enhanced energy security, and economic growth – are substantial. By fostering innovation, building infrastructure, and collaborating across the industry, India can position itself as a leader in hydrogen maritime solutions, inspiring other nations to follow suit and navigate towards a truly sustainable future for our oceans.

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