Noise generated by offshore construction work, such as piling during windfarm construction has potential to affect marine wildlife. As a result, in Europe, industry is obliged to undertake measures to monitor and reduce noise levels during offshore construction activities.

Details of the range of underwater noise monitoring equipment used by OSC around the world is described here, but all OSC noise measuring equipment complies with international standards (e.g. TNO, 2011; BSH, 2011; BSH, 2013a; NPL, 2014).

Effects of pile-driving on marine mammals

The effects of underwater noise on marine fauna depend greatly on the characteristics of the sound. A useful distinction can be made between continuous (long duration), transient (short duration), and repeated transient sounds (de Jong et al., 2011). According to Southall et al. (2019), there are three distinct sound types that are relevant for marine mammal noise exposure criteria:


  1. single pulse;
  2. multiple pulses; and,
  3. non-pulses. 


Pile driving for windfarm construction is classified as multiple pulses, which are normally brief, broadband, atonal and periodic. In addition to pile-driving noise, background noise, which is treated as continuous sound, must also be measured as a baseline for comparison.

UK piling guidelines

OSC has considerable experience of working to Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) guidelines and the four Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies (SNCBs) for the UK, which has given us an in-depth knowledge of guideline/regulation interpretation and application in the real world. 

OSC’s Marine Mammal Mitigation Plans (MMMPs) set out a mitigation methodology and reporting for any instances of UneXploded Ordnance (UXO) detonation and piled, or part-piled, wind turbine foundation installation. OSC work with the MMO, Natural England, Marine Scotland, and other regulators to ensure a final MMMP is agreed. More specifically, OSC’s MMMPs are consistent with the Statutory Nature Conservation Agency protocol for minimising the risk of injury to marine mammals from piling noise (JNCC, 2010a), explosives, if applicable (JNCC, 2010b), and comply with our client’s Energy’s Development Consents Order (DCO) granted by the Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

German underwater noise thresholds

OSC has worked with the Bundesamt für Seeschifffahrt und Hydrographie (German Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency, BSH) in German waters, and in 2004, was the first British company to win a German underwater noise modelling study. Since then, the rules have changed, and OSC has modified its underwater noise measuring protocols (and equipment) accordingly. 

Details of the range of underwater noise monitoring equipment used by OSC around the world is described here, but all OSC noise measuring equipment complies with BSH standards (BSH, 2011; BSH, 2013a).

habitat assessment requirements

OSC’s marine mammal habitats assessment methodology complies with all standards outlined in (BSH, 2013b). We have been using arrays of C-PODs and T-PODs to assess harbour porpoise habitat behaviour and cumulative noise impacts for windfarms internationally since 2004.

Vessel requirement

For inshore projects, OSC can supply their own vessel. For offshore projects, larger vessels are required, for which OSC can charter.

OSC’s windfarm experience

OSC has undertaken numerous baseline survey, underwater noiseacoustic propagation modelling, and MMO/PAM projects in many countries, and published in peer-reviewed journals. OSC is 100% familiar with the requirements set out in the BSH, NPL, TNO, OSPAR, etc. documents. A list of our windfarm clients can be found here ( A full list of references is available upon request.

OSC standards

OSC is certified to International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9001:2015, ISO 14001:2015, and 45001:2018 standards. OSC is also registered on Achilles’ UVDB database.


BSH (2011): BSH-Standard: Offshore Wind Farms – Measuring Instruction for Underwater Sound Monitoring. 31.

BSH (2013a): BSH-Standard: Offshore Wind Farms – Measuring Specification for the Quantitative Determination of the Effectiveness of Noise Control Systems. 20.

BSH (2013b): Standard – Investigation of the impact of offshore wind turbines on the marine environment (StUK4). Bundesamt für Seeschiffahrt und Hydrographie (BSH), Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency, Hamburg und Rostock 2013, pp. 87.

JNCC (2010a): Statutory nature conservation agency protocol for minimising the risk of injury to marine mammals from piling noise. Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Inverness. 14 pp.

JNCC (2010b): JNCC guidelines for minimising the risk of injury to marine mammals from using explosives. Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Aberdeen, UK. 10 pp.

NPL (2014): Good practice guide for underwater noise measurements. In S. Robinson, P. Lepper, and R. Hazelwood (Eds): NPL good practice guide no 133. National Measurement Office, Marine Scotland, The Crown Estate, pp. 97.

TNO (2011): Standard for measurement and monitoring of underwater noise, Part II: procedures for measuring noise in connection with offshore wind farm licensing. TNO-DV 2011 C251. 56 pp.

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