Defining, measuring and mitigating vessel noise at ports

Upcoming Project NEPTUNES conference to offer a best practices guide for ports on measuring, labelling and mitigating noise emissions of vessels at ports

ship noise vibrations emissions

In 2017 a small group of pioneering ports decided to create an inventory of ship-generated noise in berth, at anchor and manoeuvring to get in berth or leaving the berth. Why?

Noise Exploration Program To Understand Noise Emitted by Seagoing Ships (Project NEPTUNES)

Up until today, there is a noticeable absence of any universal measurement protocol for the quantification of noise performance of ships in port. Nor is there any recorded information or standardised data regarding noise or nuisance in and around ports. The information that is available varies enormously and is rarely translated into concrete measures to mitigate that noise. Frank Wolkenfelt, one of Project NEPTUNES' key program participants takes up the story:

"The aim is to really place vessel noise on the table as another emission. Ports in the world today are becoming increasingly residential, with waterfront properties alongside new cruise homeports. Container, bulk and liquid terminals are handling ever larger volumes of cargo in terms of loading, discharge and transhipments from ever larger vessels. Ships alongside need a constant energy source to keep running and there is a entire chain of shore-based noise-generating machinery and equipment that serves them that are almost singularly focussed on greenhouse gas and carbon emissions reductions. And that is before any reference is made in terms of impact of noise on natural ecosystems."

The development of the measurement protocol has been based on international standards and the experience of acoustic specialists with similar projects in other industries. The protocol was then tested in seven ports (23 ships in total using a two-day audit plus report follow up for each, completed by the end of 2018 ) to guarantee the satisfactory and objective quality of the results and to prove that the protocol was suitable for the given purpose.

Attaching a 1-100 scale noise label to vessel noise performance – and to reward ships exceeding standards

Guidelines for consistent labelling were then developed in the participating ports based on measurement results. The aim is to classify the emitted noise from different types of ships based on their overall sound power level and the proportion of low frequency noise. By creating a practical 1-100 scale based on scientific measurement with a high score designating a low noise vessel by type, the path is now open to integrate the label into the IAPH Environmental Shipping Index (ESI). The ESI has over 7,000 ships on its register and has been adopted by some of the world's largest ports to reward and incentivise shipowners with vessels that meet and exceed IMO emissions standards.

Project NEPTUNES participants

Best Practice Guide (BPG) to be discussed at NEPTUNES conference in Rotterdam on 28 March 2019

The result of two years of work by the Project NEPTUNES team is detailed in an easy-to-use 50 page Best Practice Guide (BPG) for ports, owners and other stakeholders which will be discussed at the upcoming NEPTUNES conference on noise reduction to be hosted and held by the Port of Rotterdam next week on March 28th. Project NEPTUNES experts will present the measurement protocol and proposed labelling system to project participants and key industry stakeholders including classification societies, shipowners and maritime associations.

Joop Smits, NEPTUNES Project head commented :

"The outcome will mark an important milestone for the NEPTUNES Project with the delivery of a practical guide to mitigate vessel noise in ports – certainly not the beginning of the end of this collaboration, but with the support of the industry and IAPH, the end of the beginning."

Dr. Patrick Verhoeven, IAPH Managing Director and coordinator of the World Ports Sustainability Program added : "This demonstrates once again how a willingness by experts in the ports sector to collaborate can make all the difference by defining, measuring, labelling and then incentivising stakeholders to reduce emissions at ports."