Halting the Hiss: SATURN Seeks Solutions to Underwater Noise

New project addresses the threat to underwater life exposed to noise from shipping

In response to serious global concerns about the declining health of our oceans, an €8.96 million Horizon 2020 funded project due to start in 2021 represents a significant EU investment that directly supports attainment of targets for a cleaner, quieter maritime sector. Named SATURN, this project initiative is led by MaREI, Science Foundation Ireland’s Research Centre for Energy, Climate and Marine, hosted by University College Cork, and involves a large consortium of EU participants. 

Previous initiatives have advanced knowledge in relevant themes but worked mostly in isolation. SATURN, which has 20 project partners from 10 European countries, benefits from a uniquely integrated and interdisciplinary approach with acousticians, marine biologists, maritime engineers and standards bodies working side-by-side and in tandem with a large well-structured group of international stakeholders to create and test innovative solutions for reducing the most harmful effects of underwater noise. 

“It is an absolute privilege to be leading such a talented and committed group of scientists and engineers. Everyone put 100% into the proposal, finding common ground by bridging traditional boundaries between their respective disciplines. This means we are now all very much looking forward to the new year when will jointly embark on our exciting four-year work programme.”
Gerry Sutton
Project lead and MaREI Research Fellow

SATURN is responding to the present needs of EU citizens and safeguarding these for the future

The unique state-of-the-art technical approach of SATURN offers the European maritime transport sector a leap forward, focusing on reduction and mitigation of shipping noise output on the sound components that are likely to be causing the most harm.  By assessing new technologies and providing support for policies to mitigate negative impacts of underwater noise from shipping and water-based transport, SATURN is responding to the present needs of EU citizens, markets and environments and safeguarding these for the future.

Dr Bob Flynn, National Contact Point for Horizon 2020 at Enterprise Ireland welcomed the announcement, “SATURN was ranked first ahead of all proposals submitted for this specific Horizon 2020 call and this success by MaREI brings Irish researchers to the forefront of addressing threats to the oceans biodiversity from underwater noise pollution. Enterprise Ireland was pleased to provide financial and technical support for the team to develop their proposal in line with our strategy for Horizon 2020 to support excellence in research with the objective of driving innovation and competitiveness across the Irish economy.”

Technical findings and breakthroughs that the project hopes to achieve

SATURN will be working towards uncovering the physical mechanisms of underwater noise production, methods for how the noise signature of individual ships can be assessed cost effectively, understanding how marine mammals, fish and invertebrates respond to various sound various levels and frequencies they receive, and real-life case studies to test the effectiveness of technical and operational efforts in reducing shipping noise through smart regional management policies.        

SATURN has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 101006443.


Project Partners:

MaREI, UCC (Project Lead), Aarhus University, Bureau Veritas Marine & Offshore SAS, CETENA, CEFAS, DNV GL, JASCO Applied Sciences, MARIN , NAVAL GROUP, Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research, PLOCAN, QUIET-OCEANS, TIHO, TSI, WART, LEID, UPC, CNR, ULL, Sirehna

Partner 1 & Coordinator: MaREI, University College Cork (UCC)

MaREI is the world-leading Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Energy, Climate and Marine, coordinated by the Environmental Research Institute (ERI) at University College Cork. MaREI has over 200 researchers across 13 partner institutes in Ireland working with 75 industry partners focusing on the energy transition, climate action and the blue economy. MaREI delivers excellent research with societal impact by supporting industry, informing policy and empowering society. MaREI’s research capabilities cover a wide range of cross-cutting topics in marine renewable energy technologies, materials and structures, observation and operations, coastal and marine systems, bioenergy, energy policy and modelling, and energy management.  MaREI researchers work with collaborators in more than 36 countries and this research increasingly underpins energy and climate policies of the Irish Government and the European Union. Through engaged research and dialogue with stakeholders and communities, MaREI also supports the human and societal dimensions of climate action and marine conservation.  SATURN builds on existing capacity in underwater noise at MaREI, which also coordinates the Interreg Atlantic Area-funded research project Joint Framework for Ocean Noise in Atlantic Sea (JONAS). JONAS, addresses the issue of underwater noise and the threats it poses to biodiversity in the northeast Atlantic by streamlining ocean noise monitoring and risk management on a transnational basis

Partner 2 Aarhus University (AU)

Aarhus University (AU) is a multi-disciplinary university covering the entire research spectrum — basic research, applied research, strategic research and research-based advice to authorities. Contributions to SATURN comes from three different departments: Biology, Bioscience and Aarhus Institute for Advanced Sciences. These groups have a long tradition for cooperation and together forms one of the strongest research groups on marine mammal bioacoustics in Europe. Tasks of the groups spans from basic research in hearing and sound production to noise monitoring and effects of noise exposure to individuals and populations. The group is the primary scientific advisor to the Danish Government on issues of underwater noise and marine mammal ecology in general.

Partner 3 Bureau Veritas Marine & Offshore SAS (BV)

Classification society Bureau Veritas has played a leading role in addressing marine noise and vibration issues and has dedicated class rules: NR 614 – URN. Rule development has been supported by the early interest of several major ship owners, EU funded projects SILENV (2009-2012) and AQUO (2012-2015) and subsequent projects such as ‘Racket in the Oceans’, participation in technical workshops (CISMaRT) and dedicated policy meetings – including IMO Workshops. BV participation in SATURN supports its continuous efforts to develop awareness of, and technical responses to, underwater noise issues within the marine industry from policy to practice.

Partner 4 Centro per gli Studi di Tecnica Navale CETENA S.p.A. (CETENA)

CETENA, the Italian Ship Research Centre – is a company of the FINCANTIERI Group dedicated to research and consultancy in the naval and maritime field. CETENA technical activities consist of numerical studies, simulations and measurements on board ships and in the company laboratory. The main competence areas are Hydrodynamics, Structures and Materials, Vibrations and Noise, Ship Vulnerability and Signatures, Human Factors, Virtual Prototyping, Risk Analysis. CETENA has gained over the years a significant experience in the marine acoustics field, in particular by carrying out numerical simulations of underwater noise radiated from the main sources of ships and by performing related experimental validations through full-scale measurements of pressures induced onboard, acoustic pressure in water (so-called “far field”) and onboard structural vibrations.

Partner 5 Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS)

CEFAS is a UK Government Agency specializing in marine science and technology, and providing scientific advice, monitoring, and assessment to UK Government, UK Overseas Territories, international governments, public and private sector organisations, educational and research institutions, as well as non-governmental organisations. CEFAS is responsible for MSFD monitoring of underwater noise in England and Wales, and for the MSFD D11.2.1 assessment for the UK (on behalf of Defra). CEFAS also holds the UK co-chair of OSPAR ICG-NOISE, which provides scientific coordination for underwater noise monitoring and assessment in the OSPAR maritime region.

Partner 6 DNV GL

DNV GL is one of the world’s leading classification society and a recognized advisor for the maritime industry. They enhance safety, quality, energy efficiency and environmental performance of the global shipping industry – across all vessel types and offshore structures. They invest heavily in research and development to find solutions, together with the industry, that address strategic, operational or regulatory challenges. They have been active in the field of noise and vibration for more than 50 years and have been leaders within classification societies in including noise and vibration in the classification concept. They have broad experience on underwater noise radiation form ships through their advisory services and also introduced their SILENT notation related to underwater noise radiation from ships as the first of its kind. DNV GL will contribute to the SATURN program with its vast hands-on experience with underwater noise measurements.

Partner 7 JASCO Applied Sciences (Deutschland) GmbH

JASCO Applied Sciences, a multinational group with its EU constituent based in Germany, has been collecting, analysing, and assessing underwater acoustic data since 1981. The organization also designs, develops, and supplies equipment to facilitate acoustic data collection for purposes of analysis across various sectors. JASCO is a specialist in the prognostic assessment of potential environmental impacts using numerical modelling to reliably predict underwater sound propagation from commercial, industrial and leisure activities. It has the capability to model sound footprints from sources such as ships, boats, air gun arrays for geophysical exploration, active sonar, and offshore construction activities including pile driving. JASCO also has the expertise to interpret the results of the models in a biological context and produce results directly related to stakeholder operations, such as mitigation recommendations. JASCO promotes and champions international standardization and participates actively in projects for the International Organization for Standardization and the International Electrotechnical Commission.

Partner 8 Stichting Maritiem Research Instituut Nederland (MARIN)

The Maritime Research Institute Netherlands (MARIN) has been dedicated to furthering maritime understanding and knowledge since 1932. Today, MARIN is an internationally recognised authority on ship and offshore hydrodynamics, involved in pioneering research programmes for governments, the maritime and offshore industry, and navies. It has a cluster of the largest dedicated maritime research facilities in the world, comprising an enviable array of basins, simulation tools, measurement equipment, and production tools. In the last decades, extensive experience has been built up in predicting and mitigating underwater radiated noise of ship propellers using model tests and computational methods. Most importantly, MARIN has motivated people that bring it all together. This highly trained team is dedicated to advancing hydrodynamic know-how and applying it for the benefit of the maritime transport sector in reducing their environmental impact.

Partner 9 NAVAL GROUP (NG)

With a history stretching back almost four centuries serving a first-rate national navy, Naval Group is a world leader in Naval Defense and a major and innovative actor in marine renewable energies. Naval Group is a French state-owned (62%) company with more than 12,700 employees and a global turnover around € 4B. A total of 12 sites in France and 19 in foreign countries allow Naval Group to be a global player in maritime activities. Moreover, with 10% of its revenues dedicated to R&D, Naval Group is positioned as a highly innovative leader. Since 2011, Naval Group has been involved in 16 European projects. The main projects’ areas on which Naval Group was engaged were related to energy, transport, noise mitigation and security.

Partner 10 Nederlandse Organisatie Voor Toegepast Natuurwetenschappelijk Onderzoek (Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research, TNO)

The Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) was established under Dutch law in 1932. As an organisation established under public law, TNO holds an independent position. TNO’s stated objective is to adapt research results so they can be used by companies and governments. We focus on innovations in construction, infrastructure and the maritime industry, circular economy and the environment, defense and security, energy, healthy living, industry, information and communication technology, mobility and logistics, and strategic analysis and policy. TNO’s noise control experts are nationally and internationally acknowledged for their contribution to legislation and implementation in the field of environmental noise. This applies to both terrestrial noise (impulsive noise, transportation noise, etc.) and underwater noise. In the last decade, the attention to underwater noise and its effects on sea mammals has increased dramatically. Based on its long-term experience in environmental noise and ship acoustics, TNO now plays a leading role in international legislation and consultancy for underwater noise.

Partner 11 Consorcio Para el Diseño, Construccion, Equipamiento y Explotación de la Plataforma Oceánica de Canarias (PLOCAN)

The Oceanic Platform of the Canary Islands (PLOCAN) is a multipurpose service centre with land-based and novel sea-based infrastructures to support research, technology development and innovation in the marine and maritime sectors. Its mission is to promote long-term observation and sustainability of the ocean, providing a cost-effective combination of services, such as an ocean observatory, a marine test site, a base for underwater vehicles, training and an innovation hub. PLOCAN is a joint initiative of the Spanish and the Canary Islands governments, with the contribution of the European Regional Development Fund, and is included in the Spanish Map of Unique Scientific and Technical Infrastructures (ICTS). PLOCAN is configured as a Test Site where projects focused on testing and demonstrating of all kinds of marine devices are performed, including measuring underwater noise. The Test Site also covers the coastal component of the PLOCAN observatory, which is complemented by: (a) The European Station for Time Series in the Ocean, Canary Islands (ESTOC): a multidisciplinary mooring located in open ocean in the Central Eastern Atlantic at 29º10’N, 15º30’W with over 15 years of continuous surface and mid-water meteorological, physical, biogeochemical and underwater sound monitoring for bioacoustics. (b) A mobile observing system comprising a fleet of underwater and surface gliders able to cover missions for long periods in coastal and open ocean areas.

Partner 12 QUIET-OCEANS (QO)

Quiet-Oceans provides state-of-the-art risk assessment tools and management capabilities to help governments and maritime industry to secure their projects. With an international portfolio, Quiet-Oceans is involved with the major players of the offshore marine renewable industry, shipping, coastal development industry as well as with European governmental agencies. Incorporated in 2010 at the same time the Marine Strategy Framework Directive was published, Quiet-Oceans has become the French leader in passive acoustics, underwater noise prediction, monitoring and mitigation. Quiet-Oceans employs 16 engineers and researchers in full-time. Quiet-Oceans will pursue the development of services for policy makers in the framework of SATURN’s WP6 about Marine Spatial Planning.

Partner 13 Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover (TIHO)

The Institute for Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research (ITAW) was founded in July 2011 as part of the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation. ITAW conducts fundamental, monitoring and applied research in the field of wild biology and health. The focus in Büsum, Schleswig-Holstein, is on the ecology, distribution and abundance of marine mammals, habitat use, health and life history and management, bioacoustics and anthropogenic effects on harbour seals (Phoca vitulina), grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) and harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) and other marine mammal species worldwide. Researchers of the institute are heavily involved in work for agreements, obligations and organisations such as MSFD, NATURA 2000, OSPAR, HELCOM, ASCOBANS, ICES, IWC.

 Partner 14 Técnicas y Servicios de Ingeniería S.L. (TSI)

Técnicas y Servicios de Ingeniería S.L. (TSI) is an SME specialized in engineering and measurement services: (1) Noise & Vibration Measurement, Analysis and Control; (2) URN Measurements and Prediction; (3) Commissioning and Operation Support Services; (4) Monitoring, Predictive Maintenance (PDM) and Condition Based Maintenance (CBM); (5) Static and Dynamic Structural Design and Analysis; and (6) Experimental Analysis and Training. TSI has more than 30 years of experience and more than 2.000 referenced studies related to these activities in the Marine, Industrial, and Energy sectors

Partner 15 Wartsila Netherlands B.V. (WART)

Wärtsilä is a leading provider of ship machinery, propulsion and maneuvering solutions, supplying engines and generating sets, reduction gears, propulsion equipment, control systems, and sealing solutions for all types of vessels and offshore applications. Wärtsilä commands a strong position in all main marine segments as a supplier of highly rated ship machinery and systems. In 2018, its net sales totaled €5.2 billion with approximately 18,000 employees. The company has operations in nearly 170 locations in 70 countries around the world. Wärtsilä is listed on the NASDAQ OMX Helsinki, Finland and supports its customers throughout the lifecycle of their installations. Wärtsilä provides service, maintenance and reconditioning solutions both for ship machinery and power plants. In parallel with its main service operations, Wärtsilä has launched innovative new services that support its customers’ business operations, such as service for multiple engine brands in key ports, predictive and condition-based maintenance and training.

Partner 16 University of Leiden (LEID)

Leiden University is an academic organization for teaching and research. Founded in 1575, Leiden University is the oldest university in the Netherlands and one of the leading research universities in Europe, consistently ranked in the Top 100 according to the Academic Ranking of World Universities. The university is located in two campuses (Leiden and the Hague) and has 29,541 students and 1638 academic staff (from a total of 130 different nationalities). Leiden University has strong international research collaborations and is part of the Coimbra Group, the Europaeum, and a founding member of the League of European Research Universities. The research commitment is further witnessed by its more than 40 national and international research institutes.

Partner 17 Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, BarcelonaTech (UPC)

The Laboratory of Applied Bioacoustics (LAB) is a research laboratory of the UPC focused on bioacoustics monitoring, biodiversity conservation and the assessment of the effects of sound on marine organisms. The LAB has ample experience in sound measurement standardization through its international programme LIDO (Listen to the Deep-Ocean Environment) where underwater observatories are 24/7 monitoring noise worldwide and streaming processed acoustic data in real-time to the internet, as well as the EU TG Noise expert group. The LAB has pioneered the research on the impact of sound on invertebrates and published several reference papers on the subject.

Partner 18 National Research Council of Italy (CNR)

CNR is a Public Research Body, with general scientific competences, acting under the supervision of the Ministry of Education, University and Research (MIUR). Within the framework of European cooperation and integration, CNR’s mission is to carry out, promote, transfer, encourage, and enhance research in the main sectors of knowledge in order to apply the results for the scientific, cultural, technological, economic, and social development of the country. CNR participation in SATURN involves two Institutes: the Institute of Marine Engineering (CNR-INM) and the Institute of Marine Sciences (CNR-ISMAR). The Institute of Marine Engineering (CNR-INM), which has its headquarters in Rome and secondary branch offices in Genova and Palermo, counts 170 people, including 74 research scientists and engineers, 74 technicians and 18 units of administrative personnel, and conducts fundamental and applied research in the disciplines of naval architecture and marine engineering. State-of-the-art experimental techniques and equipment are used in world-class testing facilities which include, among the others, two towing tanks, a large free surface cavitation channel, a cavitation tunnel, an erosion tunnel and a natural maneuverability basin. The Institute of Marine Sciences (CNR-ISMAR) conducts research in polar, oceanic, and Mediterranean regions, on a wide range of topics dealing with biogeochemical cycles and ocean productivity, habitat mapping and marine ecology, marine pollution and human impacts on coastal and lagoon ecosystems, microbial ecology, physical oceanography and modelling, marine spatial planning and ecosystem services, natural processes and hazards. With its headquarters in Venice and five regional sections spread across the Italian peninsula, it hosts a staff of 201 marine scientists with permanent positions, and 60 people in training (PhD students, postdoctoral research assistants).

Partner 19 University of La Laguna (ULL)

ULL is the oldest institution of higher education in the Canary Islands. It was founded in 1792. Currently, this public institution provides education to some 21,000 students enrolled in undergraduate degrees, 55 master’s degrees and 52 doctoral programs. The Unit of Marine Sciences of ULL, has developed research on marine fauna, including invertebrates, fish, and cetaceans, oceanography, and marine ecology for some 30 years. The research line on cetaceans and bioacoustics started in 2003. ULL has developed research on many different aspects of marine conservation biology for more than 30 years and plays a key and continuous advisory role to the Canary Islands Government and to the Spanish Government on these issues: i) design and management of marine protected areas: ii) conservation of marine species; iii) conservation of the oceanic and coastal ecosystems.

Partner 20 Sirehna

With a staff of 80 employees, SIREHNA is a small size business company, subsidiary of Naval Group, specialized in the control of naval platform dynamic behavior since 1986. Based on this expertise, SIREHNA offers services and products aiming to secure navigation and maritime environment.

SIREHNA is a specialist in the control of the dynamic behavior of novel devices. Relying on this expertise, the company offers operational and efficient products, such as a dynamic positioning system, unmanned surface vessel, navigation aids and maritime surveillance systems. SIREHNA is a major actor in the multi-field knowledge of naval hydrodynamics, fluid mechanics, experimental technologies, design optimization, modeling of wave propagation, prediction of platforms movements as well as piloting control laws and related embedded systems.