Whether it’s an industrial ship or a luxury super yacht, the maritime sector can be a noisy place to work and live in. Creating the correct acoustic environment is becoming more important, but this is an especially complicated area due to the number of variables involved. Here, Kyriakos Papanagiotou, founder and director of acoustics consultancy KP Acoustics Group, provides an introduction to some of the noise and vibration problems encountered in maritime applications and how different companies are working together to develop solutions.
Acoustic considerations are becoming increasingly important in ship design. For high-end luxury super yachts, it is impossible to enjoy the finer things in life without the correct acoustic environment. Simply having a sublime interior design will not suffice if the vibration and noise generated from the engine disrupt the experience onboard. Solving a problem like this is not something that can be rushed or easily tackled with retrospective action, but instead requires thoughtful investigation from the outset of the ship’s design.
From an employee health and safety perspective, acoustic considerations are arguably even more important. Although it is under-researched, there is growing recognition in the scientific literature of the potential impact of noise on worker fatigue, and the possible correlation between noisy environments and increased risk of accidents. There are also important regulations that must be abided by, such as the International Maritime Organization’s code and EU Directive 2003/10/EC, relating to noise at work.
Solutions are also harder to come by when compared to other sectors. Every ship is different and there are so many variables that can impact noise and vibration in this context. For example, a product specification might show that a particular material or coating is effective at sound dampening, but you cannot automatically know in advance what level of acoustic performance you will get. The outcome will vary depending on factors like engine type and size, where the engine is mounted and the size of the vessel, to name just a few factors.
Scanning the horizon
Many of the companies working in this niche are therefore focused on solving problems, rather than just selling products. Providing acoustic solutions requires collaboration between partners and the sharing of industry knowledge and experience.
A good example of a company we have partnered with here is MP Films, which supplies Nitto products to the maritime sector. Nitto is a global company specialising in materials, films and adhesives. From cars to iPhones, its materials are found in many products you have used. MP Films use its knowledge of the maritime sector to supply Nitto products for a range of purposes, including acoustic performance.
Our collaboration with them has included using our in-house research and development facilities to test the performance of their products. We recently tested Hexadamp in our laboratory in Southampton to demonstrate the material’s performance level for vibration damping and the treatment of low-frequency noise and vibration problems.
Effective real-time noise monitoring is another must-have for this sector. This can provide quicker and more accurate insight, ensuring continued compliance with the necessary legislation while onboard ships, as well as allowing a quick response to potential problems. The issue with traditional noise monitoring, however, is that equipment is bulky, power-hungry and often lacking in smart capabilities, like cloud storage.
One product that has the potential to make waves in this area is eNView™. Representing the next generation of real-time noise monitoring, this device is much smaller and more compact when compared to traditional noise monitoring equipment, meaning it occupies less space and is more discrete. It also has the added advantage of smart capabilities, large onboard storage, and lower power consumption.
There is a range of acoustic and vibration control products that can help to mitigate the impact of vibration caused by mechanical components. Equipment can be mounted on spring mounts, for example. Pipework, which often transmits sources of vibration, can be suspended on acoustic hangers and fitted with expansion joints to help absorb pulses that travel through the system.
Given what we said above about the range of variables, dealing with noise and vibration in maritime applications often requires bespoke solutions. Rather than selecting a product off the shelf, you need an acoustic consultant to specify the criteria a particular product must satisfy, then a vibration control specialist to design that product. Companies like Mason Industries have established a reputation for manufacturing bespoke products like these.
Whatever the practical solution might be, a key bit of advice is to get an acoustic consultant on board at the earliest possible stage. Feeding that acoustics expertise into the design process from the beginning avoids costlier retrofitted solutions and ensures your project can set the sails for success.
KP Acoustics Group is a full-spectrum acoustics consultancy that provides bespoke advice on noise, vibration and acoustics to a range of industries, including the maritime sector. To find out more, visit kpacoustics.com.