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ISO standards to help measure noisy seas

by Maria Lazarte on
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Noise generated by human use of the oceans and other waterways can be harmful to the marine environment. To help quantify this noise, and establish appropriate standards for the generation, transmission, and reception of underwater sound, ISO has formed a new subcommittee, SC 3, within technical committee ISO/TC 43, Acoustics, devoted to underwater acoustics.

The committee has already developed its first standard, publicly available specification ISO/PAS 17208-1:2012, Acoustics – Quantities and procedures for description and measurement of underwater sound from ships – Part 1: General requirements for measurements in deep water. The document can be used to demonstrate compliance with contract requirements, enable periodic signature assessments and in research and development. Intended users include government agencies, research vessel operators and commercial vessel owners operating in acoustically sensitive waters.

A combination of factors contribute to making the seas noisy places: commercial ships, cruise ships, military ships and submarines, air guns used for oceanographic research and minerals exploration, water sports, active sonar, acoustic communications, offshore alternative energy sources, and marine construction projects, along with natural and biological sources.

Dr. George Frisk, Chair of SC 3 explained, “Governments, industry, environmental organizations as well as concerned scientists and engineers are struggling to understand the impacts that this noise may have on marine ecology, marine animals, oceanographic research, underwater biological and anthropogenic acoustic communications, and underwater surveillance of major waterways and ports for protection from potentially catastrophic natural and/or terrorist events. These efforts have revealed that there is a need to standardize the methods of measurement and assessment of underwater sound generated by various sources, as well as its propagation and reception  by transducers and biological organisms.”

SC 3’s scope will focus on methods of measurement and assessment of the generation, propagation and reception of underwater sound and its reflection and scattering from the seabed, sea surface and biological organisms, and will include all aspects of the effects of underwater sound on the underwater environment, humans and aquatic life.

ISO/PAS 17208-1:2012: Acoustics – Quantities and procedures for description and measurement of underwater sound from ships – Part 1: General requirements for measurements in deep water , is available from ISO national member institutes (see the complete list with contact details). It may also be obtained directly from the ISO Central Secretariat, price 108 Swiss francs respectively through the ISO Store or by contacting the Marketing, Communication & Information department (see right-hand column).