A £20 million competition has been launched to develop technology to reverse the increase in carbon emissions from shipping.
The Department for Transport (DfT) said its scheme could lead to hydrogen-powered boats and electric chargepoints at ports across the UK.
Scientists and academics are being encouraged to collaborate with shipbuilders and ports on proposals for green technology trials which could be expanded commercially.
The competition is aimed at supporting the development of prototype vessels and port infrastructure to help the UK reach its target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
It comes ahead of the key international Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow in November.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “We have a proud shipbuilding history, and together with industry, I am determined to build on that as we look to develop the innovations of the future and meet our net-zero target.
“We are revolutionising maritime technology, and from electric boats to hydrogen ports, we will change the way this country sails forever, and bring jobs and prosperity to the UK.”
Around 80% of global trade by volume is carried on ships, but there is growing concern about the sector’s environmental impact.
A report published by United Nations agency the International Maritime Organisation in August last year found that ships produced a billion tonnes of CO2 in 2018.
That means the industry accounted for 2.89% of the world’s CO2 emissions, up from 2.76% in 2012.
Maritime minister Robert Courts said: “This is a turning point for the UK’s maritime sector.
“It’s an opportunity for businesses to develop the technologies of the future, not only protecting our environment but driving economic growth.
“I urge this country’s best thinkers to put their green ideas forward and help us deliver a better, cleaner maritime sector.”
The Government is also funding studies into how net-zero can be achieved for the wind farm sector and recreational craft such as boats used for leisure and sport.
The wind farm study will recommend how all support vessels in the North Sea can be zero-emission by 2025.