Stand near a highway or a railroad at almost any time of day and you’ll soon be reminded that logistics can be a noisy business, thanks to wheels, engines, and moving parts. But what most people don’t realize is that ocean containerships also create a lot of racket, both above and below the waves.
In fact, the underwater noise generated by a freight vessel’s huge propellers can prove detrimental to many species of whales, which rely on precision hearing to find prey, navigate effectively, and communicate with each other.
And since some of those species are endangered—such as the Southern Resident killer whale—the government of Canada is now taking steps to reduce underwater noise. Last month, it began soliciting proposals to develop “next generation” quiet vessel technologies, with an emphasis on “propulsion-improving devices” like ducts, fins, rudders, or propeller caps that optimize the flow of water across the propeller for quieter operation.
Selected projects will be funded through Transport Canada’s Quiet Vessel Initiative, a five-year, $26 million effort launched in 2021 that is testing the most promising technologies, vessel designs, retrofits, and operational practices to make vessels quieter, reducing the impacts of underwater noise on vulnerable marine mammals.
“Our government continues to invest in the development of innovative technologies [that] will not only help grow Canadian research and technology development, but which will greatly benefit our iconic and endangered whales from coast-to-coast-to-coast. I'm excited to see what technological advancements Canadian expertise will develop,” Canada’s minister of transport, Omar Alghabra, said in a release.