In addition to pressure to improve energy efficiency, the maritime industry may soon face demands to reduce underwater noise from shipping. This is illustrated by a large number of studies being reviewed by UN panels to bring clarity to the subject. In this paper, the studies relevant to shipping and shipbuilding are reviewed. From this review the progress of the consultative process, possible shortcomings, and potential collaborative actions beneficial to the marine industry are identified. Key revelations include inconsistencies in the way the scientific community represents shipping noise and areas where more focus is needed to ensure resilience. Furthermore, several future research focus topics are suggested in order to address these issues. This paper does not argue for or against underwater noise being viewed as harmful to marine life; it only serves to review the current consultative process and how the maritime industry could benefit from participating.


Stakeholders in the maritime industry are currently facing ever-increasing pressure from national and international regulators, geopolitical uncertainty and financial woes. While this is a concern for the industry, its desire for resilience is also the main driver of technical innovation. From an engineering perspective, one of the main reasons for investment in novel technical solutions is the demand for better energy efficiency and reduced pollution by the International Maritime Organization (IMO 2011).

Reasonably clear targets have been formulated by the IMO covering energy efficiency, air and water pollution. This allows the devising of innovation road maps for technological developments which will enable meeting these targets. Underwater noise from shipping activities is not an unknown subject, especially to the defence sector. However, when addressing concerns about underwater noise and impact on the environment, there are no clear guidelines what limits for this noise should be applied and how future rules and regulations may impact how ships are designed. It is nevertheless necessary for designers and yards to prepare in order to not be caught unaware.

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