Increased Recreational Boating Activities to Fuel Marine Lubricants Demand in the U.S.

Kunal Ahuja, GM Insights

Marine lubricants are used to help maintain optimum condition of engines and equipment and boost overall efficiency. These lubricants also help reduce wear and tear between contacting surfaces and components in relative motion in marine operations. Marine lubricants can be bio-based, synthetic, or mineral oil-based.

Global Market Insight, Inc., forecasts that global marine lubricants market size will be worth more than US$7 billion by 2026, with surging demand for bio-based lubricants particularly in developed regions such as North America and Europe. Bio-based marine lubricants, also called bio-lubricants or bio-lubes, significantly improve machine performance, minimize the environmental impact, and are safe and convenient for use in myriad marine applications.

In January this year, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) introduced a new 0.5% emissions cap on marine fuels. Consequently, this has triggered several changes to the way in which operators fuel their vessels and made the correct selection of marine lubricants more complex. To ensure a smooth performance of the vessel and avoid over-feeding of the engine, balancing the cylinder oil base number (BN) and feed rate is extremely important when switching fuels.

American manufacturer Chevron Marine Lubricants has conducted more than 75,000 hours of field tests in 21 applications across an extensive range of marine fuels and lubricants. This also includes IMO compliant 0.5% sulfur fuel blends which the company plans to use in the near future.

Recreational boating has emerged over the years to become one of the most popular leisure activities in the U.S. More and more Americans are now participating in recreational activities such as fishing, water skiing, kayaking, canoeing, or just to travel. Growing attraction towards marine recreational sports and activities, especially among younger age groups, is accelerating the adoption of personal watercrafts.

According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), which represents the country’s recreational boat, engine, and marine equipment manufacturers, retail unit sales of new powerboats increased 4% in 2018 to reach nearly 280,000 units. Additionally, a rapidly expanding tourism sector in the region has resulted in increased number of recreational and leisure boating outings such as boat racing and water sport games, bolstering the regional outlook.

The trading of bunker fuels and lubricants is one of the few elements of the marine industry that remains relatively untouched by digitalization. Factors such as opaque pricing, disparate parties, and an added level of complexity associated with conventional distribution and supply indicate that digital platforms could play a critical role in making marine lubricants market less complicated and more transparent.

Bulugo, a digital platform for easy procurement of marine fuels and lubricants, helps ship operators minimize the time and cost linked with sourcing fuel and lubricants by exploring an online database of potential suppliers based on certain criteria like fuel or lubricant type, date of availability, port, and compliance with IMO sulfur regulations. This can allow marine lubricant suppliers tap into a larger pool of customers.

Stringent regulations pertaining to the use of synthetic lubricants might hamper marine lubricants market forecast up to certain extent. However, increasing shipbuilding activities in Asia Pacific and growing adoption of bio-based lubricants in developed regions will augment marine lubricants market share.

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