London, April 3th 2014 – Some good news from London. On Thursday, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted guidelines to reduce underwater noise from commercial ships.
The new guidelines:
- recognize that shipping noise can have short-term and long-term impacts on marine life;
- call for measurement of shipping noise according to objective ISO standards, which are themselves on the verge of adoption;
- identify computational models for determining effective quieting measures;
- provide guidance for designing quieter ships and for reducing noise from existing ships, especially from propeller cavitation; and
- advise owners and operators on how to minimize noise through ship operations and maintenance, such as by polishing ship propellers to remove fouling and surface roughness.
While these (as yet) are voluntary guidelines, not mandatory code, they put the IMO’s imprimatur on noise reduction.
Thanks go to the U.S. government, which put the issue on IMO’s agenda and shepherded it through the IMO’s byzantine processes, and to Germany, Australia, Spain, the UK, and other governments that supported and helped develop the guidelines. Thanks also to the coalition of progressive trade groups, research and academic scientists, and NGOs who partnered with member states to get this done. The more difficult work – implementation – lies ahead, but the guidelines are a milestone in the advancement of this issue.