Continuous noise onboard ships can have a negative impact on human health. Studies have shown that underwater noise from commercial ships may have both short and long-term negative consequences on marine life, especially marine mammals. Since ships routinely cross international boundaries, management of such noise required a coordinated international response.


ICP 19 has 3 main points on its agenda:

  • Challenges posed by anthropogenic underwater noise: The main challenge is to ensure that anthropogenic noise can be maintained at levels that do harm marine ecosystems, while taking into consideration the precautionary approach in view of existing knowledge gaps.
  • Actions and activities undertaken at EU level in relation to anthropogenic underwater noise: These include specific legislation relating to the marine environment; and legislation on environmental impact assessment and nature protection.
  • Proposals for next steps: This work will be done before the development and implementation of measures aiming at noise reduction. The EU, under its Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, the Horizon 2020 as well as with its predecessor, the 7th Framework Programme, is funding research on adverse impacts of anthropogenic underwater noise on the marine environment.

IMO is also taking place at the ICP19, where it will present on anthropogenic underwater noise.

In 2014, IMO approved guidelines on reducing underwater noise from commercial shipping, to address negative impacts on marine life. The Guidelines focus on primary sources of underwater noise, namely on propellers, hull form, on-board machinery, and various operational and maintenance recommendations such as hull cleaning.

The Guidelines include the following, amongst others:

  • Ships have to be designed in such a way in order to reduce underwater noise;
  • Propellers should be designed and selected in order to reduce cavitation;
  • Ship hull form with its appendages should be designed such that the wake field is as homogeneous as possible;
  • Consideration should be given to onboard machinery along with appropriate vibration control measures, proper location of equipment in the hull, and optimization of foundation structures;
  • Operational modifications and maintenance measures are ways of reducing noise for both new and existing ships.

The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) at its 72nd session in April 2018 noted a number of submissions regarding underwater noise. The need for further research to better understand the impact of underwater noise from shipping as opposed to underwater noise from other sources was raised by a number of delegations.

You can see more ways to reduce underwater noise, by clicking in the PDF below