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About the Project

InciteShip focuses on the underwater noise emitted by ships and incentives for shipping companies to reduce noise from their vessels.

InciteShip aims to support and advance environmental efforts within the maritime industry and to strengthen Swedish shipping as world leading in environmentally friendly transportation. In this project, we develop and demonstrate a new type of measurement station that automatically measures noise emitted by individual vessels passing near ports or along shipping lanes.

The project also develops a system to assess the environmental impact of the measured noise and assign a score to vessels based on their noise level. These scores can then be used in an incentive system like those currently in place for other emissions, such as the Clean Shipping Index.

InciteShip runs from 2024 to 2026 and includes measurements at two locations, one on the west coast and one on the east coast of Sweden, during the summers of 2025 and 2026. The project is a collaboration between IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute and the Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI). The Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI) and Aarhus University in Denmark will contribute with specific expertise.

Underwater noise is a neglected aspect of ships' environmental impacts, and we need to improve the knowledge and raise awareness in the shipping industry. Research shows that underwater noise from ships can have adverse effects on marine organisms, yet internationally established threshold values for harmful noise levels are still lacking.

There are proposals for both operational and technical measures to reduce levels of underwater noise from ships. However, due to lack of incentives or binding regulations to reduce underwater noise, these measures are rarely implemented. Consequently, few shipowners find it worthwhile to invest in sound-reducing measures or a certified noise emission rating. Additionally, cost-effective, and standardized systems for measuring and verifying a ship's emitted underwater noise are currently missing.

InciteShips’ goals:

  • To develop a measurement station capable of collecting underwater noise from ships in transit with higher accuracy than previously demonstrated in Swedish waters.
  • To compile data and develop a model for assessing and quantifying the environmental impact on fish, marine mammals, and invertebrates, based on a ship's measured noise levels.
  • To develop a method for scoring the environmental impact of underwater noise levels from individual ships, based on an overall assessment of the impact on marine fish, invertebrates, and mammals, also considering the ship class.
  • To describe how the developed system can be deployed and financed by an external party after the project is completed.
  • To develop a feedback method to ship owners regarding their ships' underwater noise.
  • To anchor the project's work and communicate new findings and policy developments in the field of underwater noise from vessels, by leading a network of stakeholders.

The Work in the Project

In 2024, we will develop, build, and test a measurement system that records the underwater noise emitted by passing ships. In this work, SMHI contributes with expertise on coastal monitoring buoys. The system will consist of a surface buoy anchored to a seabed foundation. A hydrophone system will be connected to the buoy, along with a data collection system that receives and transmits processed hydrophone data to a receiver on land. The system will be designed to operate autonomously for at least three consecutive months.

Once the measurement systems are built and tested, we will evaluate methods for determining the radiated underwater noise of individual ships, their source strength, from the recorded signals. The system will be quality-assured regarding repeatability and weather, distance, and direction dependency.

In parallel with the work on the measurement systems, we will develop a scoring system where we quantify the environmental impact of measured noise levels from individual ships. The scoring is based on a scientific assessment of negative impacts of ship noise on marine fish, invertebrates, and mammals, ultimately combined to a weighted, overall environmental score. Aarhus University will contribute to this work with their expertise on impacts of underwater noise on porpoises and seals. To ensure that the scoring system will stimulate progress towards quieter ships, it will be tailored for specific ship classes, aiming for a similar score distribution within each class.

The operation of the measurement system involves both the physical deployment and retrieval of the measurement buoys, as well as secure data management, confidentiality issues, and providing feedback to ship owners. The project will also investigate how we can create direct benefits for shipowners, such as examining how the noise of an individual ship changes over time and is influenced by different measures. Please see the section on Ship Partners for more information.

InciteShip will develop a plan for how an external party can deploy and manage the system we develop after the project ends. What expertise is required? What does it cost to establish and operate the system, and how to finance those costs?

Communication and Networking

An essential aspect of InciteShip is to inform and engage ship owners and other stakeholders on the matter of underwater noise from ships. A relevant audience will be reached through our network. The project will participate at scientific conferences and reach the general public through traditional and social media.

Results and conclusions will be presented at the final seminar and summarized in a final report. To ensure quality and applicability, we will anchor the work in a reference group with representatives from authorities and the shipping industry.