International noise regulations at sea involve many problems; partly because they are only recommendations, meaning that there is no obligation to follow the limits stated, and partly because the recommended values are far too generous.
According to the currently valid IMO Resolution A 468 (XII), it is permissible to have noise levels up to 60 dB in cabins; the World Health Organization recommends 40 dB, and Swedish research indicates that limits should be set at 30 dB. This guideline is now 30 years old and it is high time that the IMO (International maritime organization) sub-committee DE (Design and Equipment) took up the subject for discussion.
The undersigned is in a correspondence group that will try to achieve some small measure of consensus before the next meeting in March. The IMO consists of 168 countries and an equal number of interest organizations, so it will not be easy and it will take time before a revision is made. The aim is to try to modernize these 30-year-old recommendations and make them obligatory. Our ambition is to reduce the noise limits if at all possible, and above all in cabins.
Sweden is in the forefront with a limit of 55 dB in cabins. Sweden, in addition to Finland and Denmark and other parts of the industry, has been the driving force in sharpening noise limits at sea. This is necessary since recommendations are not followed by certain flagging countries, shipyards and shipping companies. We have noticed such cases when purchasing used tonnage, such as an EU flagged ship (Germany) bought by a Swedish shipper. Measurements taken in some cabins indicated a noise level of 64 dB. Such values should not be accepted anywhere in the world.