How can ports act to reduce underwater noise from shipping? Identifying effective management frameworks

Mar Pollut Bull. 2021 Dec 21;174:113136. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2021.113136. Online ahead of print.


This paper aims to find mechanisms to align commercial interests with underwater noise reductions from commercial shipping. Through a survey and a series of interviews with representative stakeholders, we find that while acknowledging the wide variations in ports' specificities, port actions could support the reduction in underwater noise emissions from commercial shipping through changes in hull, propeller and engine design, and through operational measures associated with reduced speed, change of route and travel in convoy. Though the impact of underwater noise emissions on marine fauna is increasingly shown to be serious and wide-spread, there is uncertainty in the mechanisms, the contexts, and the levels which should lead to action, requiring precautionary management. Vessels owners are already dealing with significant investment and operating costs to comply with fuel, ballast water, NOx and CO2 requirements. To be successful, underwater noise programs should align with these factors. Based on a multiple criteria decision making (MCDM) approach, we find a set of compromise solutions for a wide range of stakeholders. Ports could propose actions such as discounted port fees and reduced ship waiting times at ports, both depending on underwater noise performance. Cooperation between ports to scale up actions through environmental indexes and classification societies' notations, and integration with other ports' actions could help support this. However, few vessels know their underwater noise baseline as there are very few hydrophone stations, and measurement methodologies are not standardized. Costs increase and availability decreases dramatically if the vessel buyer wants to improve the noise profile. Local demands regarding airborne noise close to airports boosted global pressure on the aviation industry to adopt existing quieting technology. This experience of the aviation noise control could inform the underwater noise process.

Keywords: Noise; Ocean; Pollution; Shipping.