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Report of Working Group 41

of the





PIANC has Technical Commissions concerned with inland waterways and ports (InCom), coastal and ocean
waterways (including ports and harbours) (MarCom), environmental aspects (EnviCom) and sport and pleasure
navigation (RecCom).

This Report has been produced by an international Working Group convened by the Maritime Navigation
Commission (MarCom). Members of the Working Group represent several countries and are acknowledged
experts in their profession.


The objective of this report is to provide information and recommendations on good practice. Conformity is not
obligatory and engineering judgement should be used in its application, especially in special circumstances.
This report should be seen as an expert guidance and state of the art on this particular subject. PIANC disclaims
all responsibility in case this report should be presented as an official standard.

PIANC General Secretariat

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Environmental impact of wake . . . . . . . . . . .20

4.3.1 Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20
4.3.2 Potential impacts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20
4.3.3 Differentiating between causes . . . . .22
4.3.4 Predicting environmental impact . . .22


Working group members . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4

Technical expert . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4
1. Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5
1.1 Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5
1.2 Method of undertaking the task . . . . . . . . . . . .5
1.3 Definition of high-speed vessel . . . . . . . . . . . .5

5. Managing vessel wake . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .22

5.1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .22
5.2 Management measures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23
5.2.1 Vessel design . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23
5.2.2 Operational measures . . . . . . . . . . . .23
5.2.3 Non-operational measures . . . . . . . .24
5.3 Route assessment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .24
5.3.1 Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .24
5.3.2 Route characterization . . . . . . . . . . .24
5.3.3 Impact identification . . . . . . . . . . . .25
5.3.4 Developing and assessing potential
management measures . . . . . . . . . . .27
5.3.5 Monitoring . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .28

2. International experience with high-speed

vessel wake
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5


3. Wave generation and vessel wake . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6

3.1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6
3.2 Wave generation and wake characteristics . . . .6
3.2.1 Conventional wake patterns
sub-critical wash . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6
3.2.2 Near-critical wash . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6
3.2.3 Super-critical wave pattern . . . . . . . . .7
3.2.4 General mechanisms . . . . . . . . . . . . .8
3.3 Propagation and transformation
of high-speed vessel wake . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9
3.3.1 Direction of wave propagation . . . . . .9
3.3.2 Composition of wash and its frequency
components . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10
3.3.3 Wave transformation and
wave decay . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10
3.4 Wake in coastal areas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11
3.4.1 General wave transformation . . . . . .11
3.4.2 Propagation of vessel wake
in coastal zone . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11
3.5 Wake generated by non-steady operation . . . .12
3.5.1 Acceleration, deceleration,
and extent of wash . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12
3.5.2 Change of wake regime with
constant speed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12
3.5.3 Focusing the wash during course
changes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12
3.5.4 Impact of bathymetry on
operational procedures . . . . . . . . . . .13
3.6 Bernoulli wake and soliton waves . . . . . . . . .13
3.7 Wake prediction, analysis, and assessment . .13
3.7.1 Numerical prediction of wake . . . . .13
3.7.2 Full-scale trials and measurements . .15
3.7.3 Model scale trials . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17
3.7.4 Wake analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17
3.7.5 Wake assessment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17

6. Conclusion

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .28


. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .29

Annex A Terms of reference . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .32

4. Impacts associated with vessel wake . . . . . . . . . . .17

4.1 Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17
4.2 Safety impacts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18
4.2.1 Safety of people . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18
4.2.2 Safety of vessels . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18
4.2.3 Structural damage . . . . . . . . . . . . . .19

Report of Working Group 41 - MARCOM



Christian Aage, Technical University of Denmark,

Adrian Bell (Chair until September 2002), Kirk McClure
Morton, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
Lars Bergdahl, Chalmers University of Technology,
Alan Blume (Chair), U.S. Coast Guard, United States of


Ernst Bolt, Ministry of Public Works, Transport and Water

Management, Netherlands
Hendrik Eusterbarkey, Federal Waterways and Shipping
Administration, Germany
Tetsuya Hiraishi, Port and Harbour Research Institute,
Ministry of Transport, Japan
Henrik Kofoed-Hansen, DHI Water & Environment,
Denis Maly, Port Authority Bruges-Zeebrugge, Belgium
Martin Single, University of Canterbury, New Zealand

Jorma Rytknen, VTT Manufacturing Technology,


Trevor Whittaker, Queens University, Northern Ireland,

United Kingdom


Bjrn Elser, Queens University, Northern Ireland,

United Kingdom

Report of Working Group 41 - MARCOM




The intent of this report is to provide an overview of the
hydrodynamic and physical aspects of high-speed vessel
wake and to provide guidance for its effective management. This guidance does not prescribe a solution. Rather,
it provides a process that waterway management authorities and vessel operators can use to develop an appropriate
solution for managing high-speed vessel wake. This guidance is consistent with the International Maritime
Organizations (IMO) High-Speed Craft Code (2000)
and may be used to support the development of the route
operational manual required by Regulation 18.2.2 of that


Real or perceived safety and environmental impacts associated with high-speed vessel wake in confined waters
have been reported in many locations including Canada
(Sandwell, 2000), Denmark (Kofoed-Hansen, 1996;
Danish Maritime Authority, 1997; Kirkegaard et al., 1998;
Kofoed-Hansen and Mikkelsen, 1997), Great Britain
(Marine Accident Investigation Branch, 2000), Ireland
(Maritime and Coastguard Agency, 1998), Sweden (Strom
and Ziegler, 1998; Allenstrm et al., 2003), The
Netherlands (Anonymous, 2000), New Zealand (Croad
and Parnell, 2002; Kirk and Single, 2000; Parnell, 1996;
Single and Kirk, 1999), Finland and Estonia (Peltoniemi et
al., 2002), and the United States (Anonymous, 1999;
Stumbo et al., 1999). To date, much of the research undertaken on high-speed vessel wake wash has appeared only
as unpublished reports for various authorities and management agencies.

The report does not address other issues associated with

the operation of high-speed vessels that are within the
purview of other organisations (e.g., IMO, the
International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation
and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA)); nor does it address
issues related to vessel design since they are beyond the
expertise of PIANC.

Wake effects on rivers, lakes, and other inland waters

also can be substantial. For example, see Nanson et al.
(1994), Gadd (1994), Pickrill (1985), and references

Although these guidelines were developed in response to

concern about the potential impacts of high-speed vessel
wake (see Annex A), they can be used as the basis for
managing potential impacts of wake generated by any vessel.

As a result of these reported impacts, vessel operators and

waterway managers alike have tried a number of different
approaches for managing high-speed vessel wake. These
include establishing standards for maximum allowed wave
heights, maximum allowed wave energy, speed limits, and
risk assessments. Other measures that have been used
include the installation of wave-absorbing materials on sea
walls and other harbour structures as well as efforts to educate other waterway users about the potential impacts of
high-speed vessel wake. Based on the experience to date
from these different efforts, it is increasingly apparent that
the effective management of high-speed vessel wake is a
multi-faceted problem that defies a simple one size fits
all solution. It is also apparent that a means of managing
high-speed vessel wake wash that addresses legitimate
concerns related to waterway safety and protection of the
marine environment, while also not unduly restricting
their operation, must be identified to realize the full contribution of high-speed vessels to the national and global
marine transportation systems.


The working group accomplished its task through a series

of three meetings and correspondence. Members of the
working group also corresponded with experts in their
respective countries.


For the purpose of this report, the term high-speed vessel includes vessels that meet the definition of a highspeed craft in the IMO High-Speed Craft Code (a vessel
capable of a maximum speed equal to or exceeding
3.7 0.1667(m/s), where (m3) is the displacement of the
vessel at the design waterline), or a definition adopted by
a national maritime authority.

Report of Working Group 41 - MARCOM


Fnl =


where V (m/s) is the vessel speed, g (m/s2) is the acceleration of gravity, and L (m) is the vessel waterline length.


The Kelvin wave pattern is strictly correct only for a moving point source. The wash of a vessel will be the superposition of a number of these patterns from many sources,
of which the bow and stern wave system will generally be

This section provides a description of the fundamentals of

wake wave generation by vessels and wave mechanics. It
contains the basic information necessary to understand the
effects of wake on the coastline and on other vessels. The
description primarily deals with the free wave system
sometimes referred to as Kelvin, Havelock, and Bernoulli
wave systems and does not discuss near-vessel or bound
wave system problems.

When the length Froude number is 0.4 (Fnl = 2 ) in deep

water, the wavelength of the transverse waves is equal to
the vessels length. The pressure peaks at the bow and
stern amplify each other while the wave-making resistance, which is the net longitudinal force due to the fluid
pressure of the water acting on the hull, increases significantly (Lewis, 1988). This speed is called the hump speed
and forms a firm barrier for most conventional vessels
(Fig. 3-2). Basically the vessel continuously tries to move
uphill, which requires more energy. In practice the resistance hump speed most often occurs when length Froude
numbers are between approximately 0.4 and 0.6. Highspeed vessels, the subject of these guidelines, are able to
pass through this hump speed in deep water. This
requires a relatively high ratio of propulsion power to vessel displacement.



3.2.1 Conventional wake

patterns sub-critical wash

In 1887, Lord Kelvin described the wave system produced

by a moving vessel in deep water. This wave pattern is
confined to a wedge shape known as the Kelvin wedge
(Fig. 3-1). Within this wedge, which has an apex angle of
19.5, it is possible to distinguish between diverging
waves, propagating at an angle of = 90 to 35 from the
vessels track, and transverse waves, propagating at an
angle of = 35 to 0 from the vessels track. Under
steady conditions, the transverse waves along the vessels
track travel at the same speed as the vessel.

Figure 3-2 Resistance of a typical ship hull

in deep and shallow water
The Kelvin wave pattern is only valid for deep-water
conditions. Deep water in this context means that the
vicinity of the bottom does not affect the propagation
speed of the waves produced.

Figure 3-1 Steady state Kelvin wave pattern

(Ekman, 1906; Newman, 1977)
All vessels operating in deep water produce a Kelvin type
wave pattern. In deep water the wavelength is a function
of the wave speed. The higher the vessels speed, the
longer the generated waves become. The most important
parameter for the characterisation of the Kelvin wave pattern is the vessels speed related to its waterline length
given in dimensionless terms by the length Froude number
(Fnl). The length Froude number is defined as:

Report of Working Group 41 - MARCOM

3.2.2 Near-critical wash

In 1908, Havelock investigated the wave pattern generated
by a single point source in shallow water. He introduced
the depth Froude number, stating that the characteristics of
the wave pattern in depth-limited water are a function of

3.2.3 Super-critical wave pattern

vessel speed and water depth. The depth Froude number

(Fnh) is defined as the ratio of the vessel speed to the wave
propagation speed in shallow water:
Fnh =

At higher depth Froude numbers (Fig. 3-4) the transverse

waves disappear. They simply cannot keep up with the
vessel since the water depth limits their speed. In water of
constant depth, the first wave crest in the pattern is straight
and the crest length is related to the time the vessel has
been travelling at the particular depth Froude number. The
following waves have curved crests and troughs and are
also continuous.


where: V (m/s) is the vessel speed, g (m/s2) is the acceleration of gravity, and h (m) is the water depth. The classical Kelvin wave pattern will be generated at depth Froude
numbers under 0.57. The length of the transverse waves,
which are the longest waves in the pattern, will increase as
the depth Froude number becomes larger.
As the depth Froude number approaches 1.0, the vessels
speed becomes equal to the maximum wave propagation
speed in the given depth of water. This speed is often
referred to as the critical speed. At this stage, all transverse
waves are left behind the vessel and a wave builds perpendicular to the vessel as shown in Figure 3-3. If the vessel
stays at critical speed, this wave will extend further from
the vessels track and build in height. All diverging waves
are found behind this critical wave. The conventional
Kelvin wave pattern is often referred to as sub-critical.
Where the water depth starts to change the wave pattern
significantly (Fnh > 0.85), the range is often referred to as
the near-critical speed range.

Figure 3-4 Super-critical wave pattern

in constant water depth
The angle of propagation for the first wave is determined
cos = 1 / Fnh.
Therefore, as the depth Froude number increases, the
waves bend further backwards and their angle of propagation becomes increasingly perpendicular to the vessels
track. For example, whereas at a depth Froude number of
1.5 the angle of propagation is approximately 48; at a
depth Froude number of 2.0 the angle of propagation is
The wash generated by a high-speed vessel operating
above the critical depth Froude number in shallow water
has some unique peculiarities. A typical wave time trace
of wash from a high-speed vessel operating in shallow
coastal waters measured 2700 meters from its track is
shown in Figure 3-5. The trace has been divided into
zones according to wave period and grouping. The first
group, Zone I, comprises the long period super-critical
wash waves and is peculiar to high-speed vessels operating above the critical depth Froude number. The second
group, Zone II, comprises waves similar in size and height
to the wash waves produced by conventional vessels of
comparable displacement and length. Finally there is a
group of tail waves in Zone III. These are peculiar to highspeed vessels with transom sterns.

Figure 3-3 Critical wave pattern

in constant water depth

At critical speed there is one transverse wave that moves

with the vessel and dramatically increases the wave-making resistance. This is because the energy in the longest
wave can no longer disperse generating more waves
behind, as was the case at lower speeds. This is the main
reason most conventional vessels are not capable of
exceeding the critical speed. It also needs to be mentioned
that the critical wave pattern is unsteady and changes with
time. The shape of the first wave is a function of the distance the vessel has been travelling at critical speed.

Report of Working Group 41 - MARCOM

Figure 3-5 Typical wave trace of a large high-speed vessel at super-critical depth
Froude number with wash zones indicated
Figure 3-6 a) illustrates the deep-water propagation of
waves generated by a point source moving from A to B at
speed V. Waves generated at A would have travelled as
far as the outer circle if they had propagated at the individual wave phase speed (celerity). The fastest and
longest waves would have moved along the track to B
while shorter and slower waves would have travelled to
locations such as C and D. However, in deep water the
wave energy travels at only one-half the phase speed. As a
result, the locus of wave energy, and therefore the largest
wave, moves only as far as the inner circle, to points such
as B, C, and D. In the meantime, the point source has
generated new waves along its way to B. The energy from
these waves propagates outward in progressively smaller
inner circles. The resulting limit of wave propagation for
all waves generated as the ship moves from A to B is tangent to the inner circle forming the Kelvin wedge. For any
value of V, this forms an apex angle of sin-1 (1/3) =


The time series was measured at a distance of 2700 meters

from a catamaran. The average wave periods are 11 seconds (s), 5s, and 3s, for Zone I, II and III respectively.

3.2.4 General mechanisms

The basic mechanism of wash propagation is discussed in

the following section. For simplicity, linear wave theory is
used, though there is an argument to use higher order wave
theory in very shallow water.

With regards to the propagation of surface water waves the

water depth plays a significant role. In deep water the
wave celerity is a function of the wavelength, but in shallow water the water depth limits the wave celerity. Water
depths of more than half the wavelength can be considered
as deep water, whereas water depths of less than 1/20th the
wavelength is commonly regarded as shallow water.



Figure 3-6 a) Wave rays for sub-critical operation b) Wave rays for super-critical operation at Fnh = 1.3

Report of Working Group 41 - MARCOM

number. This was originally proposed by Havelock (1908)

and proven by various other authors. This relationship is
plotted in Figure 3-7.

The visible wave pattern then lies mainly inside and along
the wedge. As individual waves propagate outward at
their phase speed and attempt to outrace the wedge, they
die out and disappear. The largest waves, therefore, form
along the wedge and wave amplitudes diminish within a
short distance outside the wedge (Lighthill, 1978;
Newman, 1977).


Whittaker et al. (2000) studied the divergence between the

first and the following waves and determined that this
angle is dependent on the depth Froude number. The theoretical divergence between the first and second leading
crest is shown in Figure 3-8. The divergence angle is
defined as the difference in propagation direction between
successive waves. Whittaker et al. (2000) has shown that
this relationship is valid for real wave patterns. At high
super-critical Froude numbers the waves are more parallel
than at lower super-critical depth Froude numbers. The
divergence decreases with perpendicular distance from the
vessel; the rate of decrease also depends on the water
depth. In deeper water the change in wave pattern is less
than with the same distance in shallow water.

wave direction []

A similar wave ray diagram can be drawn for a shallow

water wave pattern and a depth Froude number greater
than 1 with the important difference, however, that in shallow water the celerity and speed of energy propagation are
equal. This is shown in Figure 3-6 b) for a depth Froude
number of 1.3. There are no waves travelling from A at an
angle of less than 39.7 in this example. All waves radiated at A have travelled as far as the outer semicircle. As
waves in shallow water are non-dispersive, the energy of
the wave ray A C has travelled to C. The wave travelling
in the direction of D is in intermediate water depth.
Hence, the energy has travelled more than half the distance
A D, as this wave is partially dispersive. The wave travelling towards F is a deep-water wave, as its wavelength is
short compared to the water depth and, hence, it is fully
dispersive. As a result the energy has travelled only half
the distance to F'.



The following sections focus on propagation of the free

wave field generated by a vessel at super-critical speed.

3.3.1 Direction of wave propagation

Figure 3-7 Angle of wave propagation

at outer edge of stationary pattern (sub-critical)
and leading wave (super-critical)

The direction of propagation for the leading wave in the

super-critical wash is only a function of the depth Froude

Figure 3-8 Divergence of second wave compared to first with varying depth
Froude number and perpendicular distance from vessel normalised by water depth

Report of Working Group 41 - MARCOM


With each successive wave the divergence angle decreases

at constant perpendicular distance from the vessels track.
Thus, the waves further back in the pattern become
increasingly parallel to each other. Finally, the pattern
contains waves whose crests are almost parallel to the vessel's track. The slight change in the propagation direction
of the waves leads to an apparent lengthening of the waves
farther from the vessel. Hence, the peak-to-peak distance
of the wave increases with distance from the vessels track.
Waves with a period in excess of 40 seconds have been
measured 2.7 kilometres from the vessel (MCA, 1998).

function. In deep water this distribution is a function of

the vessel speed, the hull length and displacement, and the
hull shape.
Figure 3-9 a) shows such a distribution for a typical ship
hull in deep water. There is a different distribution for
each vessel speed for a given hull, or to be more precise,
for each length Froude number. In shallow water the distribution is a function of the vessel speed, water depth, hull
length, displacement, and shape. A shallow water distribution for the same vessel speed is given in Figure 3-9 b)
for a depth Froude number of 1.3. Note that there are no
wave resistance components between = 0 and 39.7,
and a large amount of energy is concentrated between
39.7 and 60. These resistance components form the
leading waves in the super-critical wave pattern. The area
underneath these curves is proportional to the wave pattern
resistance. In this case, the area under both curves is
almost equal.


Though the wash measured as a time series often appears

as a series of sinusoidal waves each with a slightly shorter
period, the surface elevation is in fact a superposition of an
infinite number of waves. Using the zero crossing period
on its own to calculate the wave speed will lead to slightly smaller values of wave celerity. Most importantly it has
to be recognised that the period of the waves in a vessels
wake is not a function of hull design, but rather of vessel
speed, water depth, and the distance the wave travels from
the point where it was generated. In contrast, the height of
the waves in the wake is a function of the hull design. In
general, for vessels with a similar hull form but different
lengths, the height of waves generated by the shorter vessel will be lower than those generated by the longer vessel.
The implication is that the period of the waves generated
by vessels of different lengths operating at the same depth
Froude number will be the same. However, the waves
generated by the shorter vessel will be less pronounced
when compared to the waves generated by the longer vessel since they will not be as high.

3.3.3 Wave transformation and wave decay

Havelock (1908) investigated the decay of wave height

with distance at sub-critical depth Froude numbers. He
found that the decay of both the transverse and diverging
waves is proportional to n, where is the distance from
the vessel and n is a constant value. He showed that the
theoretical decay inside the Kelvin wedge has the exponent n = -1/2 and the waves along the outer edge of the
wedge decay have an exponent of n = -1/3.

3.3.2 Composition of wash and

its frequency components

So far these guidelines have only focused on the location

of crests and troughs in the wave pattern. The wave-making resistance, which is a significant part of the total resistance of a vessel, corresponds to the energy used to generate the wave pattern. This resistance is spread as a continuous spectrum over the wave rays radiated from the vessel.
The distribution of the wave-making resistance is often
referred to as the free wave spectrum or the amplitude

Figure 3-10 Decay of wave amplitude

as investigated by Havelock

Figure 3-9 a) Distribution of wave-making resistance over propagation angle ()

b) the resistance is here made dimensionless as resistance coefficient (Cw)

Report of Working Group 41 - MARCOM



Transformation of wake due to change in bathymetry.

Variations in waterway bathymetry can cause the
height, propagation direction, and celerity of waves to
change. These are common coastal processes as listed
in Section 3.4.1.
Both the depth Froude number based transformation and
the bathymetric transformation need to be combined to
predict the wash. The leading wave can be treated as a
monochromatic shallow water wave. The following waves
are a superposition of an infinite number of wave components (see Section 3.3.1). Even in shoaling water, the
waves forming the pattern have different celerities, which
results in the dispersion of energy from one wave to the
next further back in the trace.


3.4.1 General wave transformation

wave crest of the supercritical wave pattern is straight in

constant water depth, and the angle of propagation
depends only on the ratio of vessel speed to maximum
wave speed. The following waves transform, and as a
result the wave period changes with distance from the
vessel in water of constant depth.


Kofoed-Hansen et al. (1999) suggested a decay rate of

n = -0.55 based on a best fit through a wide range of wake
measurements for catamarans operating at super-critical
speeds. They also stated that a decay rate of n = -1/3 close
to the vessel (less than 3 vessel lengths) would be more
appropriate. Whittaker et al. (2001) concluded from a
series of towing tank tests in shallow water that the decay
rate could be substantially less. The lowest decay rate
observed was as low as n = - 0.2. While Havelock compared the wave height at a straight ray from the vessel (Fig.
3-10), the later comparisons are based on the maximum
wave height found in wave cuts at different distances perpendicular from the vessels track.

There are a number of processes that can affect the wave

as it propagates into coastal and shallow water areas. The
most important are listed as follows:
Refraction - the bending of wave fronts and wave height
reductions as they travel into shallower water

Diffraction - the lateral transfer of energy along the

wave crest
Shoaling - the alteration in wave height as waves propagate into shallow water

Wave-current interaction - the alteration of wave celerity and height due to currents
Breaking - energy dissipation due to increased wave

Friction - energy dissipation due to friction on seabed or

obstacles or due to percolation through a porous seabed

Reflection - alteration in wave height due to full or

partial reflection from structures or seabed

All these processes are general coastal processes and are

not discussed in detail as part of these guidelines. For
more details see Vincent et al. (2002).

3.4.2 Propagation of vessel wake

in coastal zone
The propagation of waves from a vessel to the shore can be
divided into two processes:
Vessel speed - depth Froude number based transformation of wake. As described in Section 3.2.3, the first

Once in the breaker zone the linear wave theory is no

longer valid. This means that the waves can no longer be
considered as being sinusoidal. Several wave theories
have been developed in the past century, which deal with
shallow water waves like Boussinesq wave theory, or
higher order wave theory (Demirbilek and Vincent, 2002).
In some cases the long waves propagating into areas with
extremely shallow water, e.g., on mud flats or salt
marshes, can be approximated as solitary waves.
In some studies the leading group of long-period waves,
which are often the most critical waves in terms of risk,
have been treated as waves with a very narrow spectrum
(Kofoed-Hansen et al., 1996 and 1999; MCA, 1998). The
correlation between the modelling and some full-scale
measurements proved to be sufficient for most practical
Wash and wind waves will superimpose causing local
steepening that can lead to breaking and energy loss.
Otherwise, they will pass through each other unchanged.
In general, high-speed wash is very small compared to
fully developed wind waves. Thus, high-speed wash can
hardly be detected in wash measurements with the presence of pronounced wind waves or swells. Vessel wash
can, however, still be a problem on the shoreline even
under storm conditions as the very long period waves are
still present but masked. No evidence has been found that
suggests that wind affects the long wave components in
high-speed wash because the interactive time is too short
and the steepness is too small.

11 Report of Working Group 41 - MARCOM

unacceptable waves were being generated when the vessel

was abeam of location A and reduced speed immediately,
it is likely that substantial wash would still propagate to
location A.


3.5.1 Acceleration, deceleration,
and extent of wash
During acceleration in water of constant depth the wave
pattern and the wave resistance will change. When accelerating from sub-critical to super-critical speeds the vessel
has to pass through a resistance hump at critical speed (see
Fig. 3-2). While at near-critical or critical speeds, the
wake generated is more energetic vis--vis the wake generated at either sub- or super-critical speeds. It is, therefore, desirable to pass through the near-critical speed
range as quickly as possible. The same applies to deceleration, where the operator should aim for a quick decrease
in speed near the critical wake regime. The different wake
regimes are shown in Figure 3-11. If possible, the operator should avoid operation at depth Froude numbers
between approximately 0.85 and 1.1.

Figure 3-12 Outer envelope and extent of wash

3.5.2 Change of wake regime

with constant speed


Although a high-speed vessel may continue to operate at

constant speed, the wake regime may change with variation of water depth along the vessels route. A vessel
approaching a fairway from deep water may operate at
sub-critical speeds. Continuation of operation at high
speeds into shallow water results in the transition to critical speed. Depending on the bathymetry the vessel might
operate for a considerable time at near-critical speeds and
finally proceed to super-critical speed or decelerate. It is
extremely important to recognise that the wash progressing toward the shoreline may have been caused by operating at near-critical depth Froude numbers along an earlier
part of the passage.

Figure 3-11 Wake regime depending

on speed and water depth

When accelerating the vessel will produce a wave pattern

with a transitional zone. This transitional zone is nonsteady and will change its position and area with time. A
simplified wave pattern generated by a high-speed vessel
with instantaneous acceleration in constant water depth is
shown in Figure 3-12. It is assumed the vessel started its
passage at the left and instantly accelerated to a super-critical speed. Three zones can be identified in the graph. An
object at location A will encounter the full wash waves.
An object at location B will experience the same leading
waves as location A; however, with reduced wave heights.
An object at location C may be subjected to little or no
wave action from the leading waves. As the vessel continues to operate, some waves will continue to travel toward
locations A, B, and C with the boundary of the wash continuously moving outward. Finally, location C will
encounter the short tail waves (Fig. 3-5, Zone III). The
implication is that even if the operator recognised that

3.5.3 Focusing the wash during course changes

When a vessel changes course, the energy density on the

inside of the turn will be higher than the energy density on
the outside of the turn. The difference is more pronounced
for larger course changes than smaller changes as well as
when the vessel is operating at higher speeds. This is
because although the energy transferred into the wake is
equal on both sides of the vessels track, it becomes
focused on the inside of the turn insofar as it is transferred
into a smaller area. As a result, the waves generated by the
vessel will also be higher on the inside of the turn than
those generated when the vessel is operating on a straight
course. Similarly, the waves on the outside of the turn will
be lower.

Report of Working Group 41 - MARCOM


To mitigate the higher energy density and waves on the

inside of a turn, it may be necessary to increase the radius
of the turn or to make the change in a number of smaller
changes with sufficient distance between them to avoid
creating areas of increased wash concentration. It may
also be necessary to reduce speed during the change of
course. Particular care should be taken where the focused
wash of the inner bend will propagate onto shoaling areas,
such as banks or headlands, as a further increase in wave
height can be expected. On the other hand, turns can be
used to decrease wash heights on the outer bend, if the
operational area allows such manoeuvres.

confined water are capable of producing large Bernoulli

wakes. Figure 3-13 is an example of a Bernoulli wake generated by a large container vessel in water approximately
15 meters deep operating at sub-critical speeds.

3.5.4 Impact of bathymetry

on operational procedures
Figure 3-13: Bernoulli wake and Kelvin wake
generated by a large container vessel
A vessel operating close to critical speed (i.e., depth
Froude number between 0.85 and 1.1) is capable of generating a solitary wave, which in fact can be faster than the
vessel. Both conventional vessels and high-speed vessels
can produce solitary type waves, which are of very long
period and can travel several vessel lengths ahead in very
shallow open water. Large displacement vessels operating
in shallow water are particularly prone to generating this
type of wave (Scott-Russell, 1865; Dand et al., 1999;
Whittaker et al., 2001).


While the variation of water depth along the passage may

change the wake regime it also has a significant impact on
the power requirement of the vessel. As described in
Section 3.2.2 and illustrated in Figure 3-2, the resistance
of the vessel increases close to the critical depth Froude
number. Hence, the vessel needs sufficient propulsion to
overcome this resistance peak. A vessel approaching shallow water might, therefore, proceed at near-critical depth
Froude number with constantly decreasing speed while
generating a wake with higher energy compared to supercritical operation at the same water depth. This is most
likely if the vessels speed is reduced for some reason, e.g.,
extra drag due to hull fouling, the vessel is loaded higher
beyond its normal service load, or partial power loss
(Cain, 2000).

Sudden bathymetric changes can be used to transition

quickly from either a sub- or super-critical wake regime to
the other without prolonged operation at near-critical
speed. One means of accomplishing this is to construct a
steep depth contour in the channel as described by
Feldtmann and Garner (1999).



The dynamic displacement of water caused by the forward

movement of a vessel through water results in a velocity
field around the hull (bound wave field). While this velocity field is responsible for the pressure distribution along
the surface and, hence, the generation of waves, it has little effect on the far field propagation and transformation of
the Kelvin wave pattern (free wave field). However, in a
confined environment, e.g., fairway, shallow water or
canal, the flow field can be restricted by the surrounding
boundaries. This is very distinct in inland canals and is
directly related to the blockage.

Theoretically any type of vessel will produce such a displacement wave. However, in particular large vessels in


3.7.1 Numerical prediction of wake

A numerical non-linear time-domain model capable of

calculating vessel-generated waves, wave propagation,
and wave transformation in non-homogeneous media is
the ultimate tool for evaluating the potential for vessel
wake to have adverse safety or environmental impacts.
Besides predicting the unstationary flow field and the
associated wave pattern around the vessel hull, the same
model (preferably) will be able to calculate the dynamics
of the transient waves in the surf zone including the maximum wave height before wave breaking as well as run-up
on beaches and river banks. Such models do not exist yet;
however, if they did, they would be far too computationally demanding for practical use.
In recent years, the use of computational fluid dynamic
(CFD) codes has provided a valuable supplement to more
classic methods for design and optimisation of vessel
hulls. Comparisons between results from various CFD
codes, full-scale measurements, and towing tank tests have
increased confidence in using these models for prediction
of wake wash caused by multi-hull vessels at varying

13 Report of Working Group 41 - MARCOM

Thin ship theory code

water depths. A general limitation of these models is that

they do not permit calculations of the far-field wave pattern. Most often, the calculation is limited to an area within approximately three to five vessel lengths.
Furthermore, the codes usually only provide a stationary
solution of the potential flow field at a constant depth.


This theory, which is often referred to as slender body theory, assumes the vessel hull(s) to be slender compared to
their length. Most theories represent the body of the vessel as a series of Kelvin sources along the centreline of the
hull assuming a linear free surface condition. As such the
theory is limited to linear wave theory and in particular
small waves compared to the wavelength. The theory
behind these programs originates from work carried out by
Lord Kelvin, Havelock (1908), Mitchell (1898) and
Eggers et al. (1967). The strength of each of the sources
is derived from the local slope of the hull at a number of
water lines. The locations where the local slope is determined are often referred to as panels. The underlying
equations are multiple integrals and are solved directly by
numerical integration. The code can compute only steady
state (constant speed) conditions and shallow water problems. Some programs include the input of reflective
boundaries to simulate tank walls and, thus, allow the
results to be compared with narrow tank experiments.
Trim and sinkage is usually user defined. More recent
codes derive the sinkage and trim by means of calculating
the forces on the hull from the surrounding surface elevation through iteration. Difficulties occur with transom
sterns, as basic thin vessel theory cannot deal with flow
separation. Adjustments to the code like artificial appendices (virtual stern) or the use of potential flow methods
have helped to improve the predictions significantly. Very
high length Froude numbers seem to produce numerical
instabilities with certain codes or the accuracy decreases.
Thin ship theory still is heavily used and produces good
results for many vessel wash problems. There is no limitation to the distance from the vessel at which a wave elevation can be computed. However, some programs can
only derive entire wave fields and the computation is
restricted to constant water depth. Other effects like surface tension, wave breaking, and seabed shear stress are
usually neglected. In particular, due to numerical damping
and other numerical inaccuracies, the error can become
too large in the far field to be acceptable.

Predicting the impact of the wake for a certain vessel operating on a given route requires, in most cases, the solution
of an unsteady problem in a three-dimensional domain.
This is, in most cases, not feasible with one particular
numerical model. Hence, the numerical prediction of the
wake problem is divided into two different problems:
Prediction of the wave field near the vessel.


Prediction of the wave transformation and propagation

in the far field and coastal zone.
Very few numerical models predict both problems; those
that have been developed to date are coupled methods
(Raven, 2000; Kofoed-Hansen et al., 2000). Prediction of the wave field near the vessel

The wave field generated by a vessel can be derived by

numerical methods in several ways. These methods can be
grouped in principle in two categories: panel codes and
thin vessel theory models. Because of the inherent limitations associated with each type of model, several research
institutions are working on hybrid models.
Potential Flow Panel Codes

These codes use a non-linear free-surface potential flow

method, where the hull and water surfaces are represented
by a large number of panels. As the pressure along the hull
is calculated, sinkage and trim can be predicted. Since the
boundary conditions are non-linear the problem cannot be
solved directly. The actual wave surface is derived by
means of iteration starting with a flat surface and an estimated trim and sinkage. Shallow water effects can be
implemented. However, as in most codes, the grid moves
with the vessel and only steady state or quasi-steady state
conditions can be computed. Only panel codes with timestepping treatment have the potential of solving fully nonsteady conditions. The computational effort is rather large
and, thus, the computation time can be considerable. Most
models calculate the wave elevation or free surface profile
up to a few vessel lengths distance from the vessel. A
review of the current capabilities of panel codes can be
found in Raven (2000) and Hughes (2001) as well as more
detailed literature.

Most thin ship theory programs can be run on a normal

desktop computer and results are obtained within seconds.
A description of current programs can be found in Gadd
(1999), Molland et al. (2000), Tuck et al. (2001) and
Doctors (1997) as well as more detailed literature.

Report of Working Group 41 - MARCOM Prediction of wave transformation and propagation in the far field and coastal zone
Once the generated waves are no longer influenced by the
vessel, other coastal engineering tools can be used to compute the wash propagation over a variable bathymetry. To
date only a few successful approaches have been published:


In general there is some agreement that Boussinesq-type

models will give more realistic results, particularly if the
phase relationship of the successive waves is modelled
correctly. More complex wave models based on
Boussinesq-type equations with a wider applicability in
terms of wavelengths are currently being developed.
Together with improved algorithms and faster desktop
computers these models will be more applicable to a wider
range of cases.


The model boundary allows for the variable spectral

forms and permits the wave conditions to vary along the
boundary. For wash studies, waves were specified in
terms of mean wave height, mean wave period, mean
wave direction as well as parameters for spreading from
the mean direction. The code also can be modified to
allow for the input of empirical decay rates derived
from experiments. A linear refraction-diffraction
model also has been used to calculate the wave disturbance patterns of the time history as the wave propagates from the vessel to the shore (MCA, 1998).

Chen and Sharma (1995) investigated the wave generation of a slender vessel in a shallow channel at near critical speed using a combination of thin-ship theory and
simplified Boussinesq equations. In particular the periodic generation of solitary waves was presented, which
required the use of a non-steady model. The methods
produced good results for a shallow channel with variable cross section. Jiang (2000) combined the thin-ship
approximation with an enhanced Boussinesq method
with improved results, and Jiang et al. (2002) expanded
the model for a moving ship, accelerating or decelerating, in an arbitrary bottom topography, although with
simplified Boussinesq equations.


Kofoed-Hansen et al. (1996, 1999 and 2000) and MCA

(1998) used a spectral wave model, which describes the
propagation, growth, and decay of short-period waves
in near shore areas to predict the wave height contours
over a variable bathymetry. The model includes the
effects of refraction and shoaling due to varying depth,
wave generation due to wind, and energy dissipation
due to bottom friction and wave breaking. The basic
equations in the model are derived from the conservation equation for the spectral wave action density.

Raven (2000) suggested a number of analytical techniques for calculating wave propagation in the far field,
where effects from banks or bottom topography can be
neglected. He also demonstrated the successful coupling of a steady state panel code with a space domain
Boussinesq-type model. A similar approach is discussed in Kofoed-Hansen et al. (2000). The principle
behind the Boussinesq-type models is to eliminate the
vertical dimension in the flow description without losing important effects like the influence of the vertical
acceleration on the wave propagation. The non-uniform distribution of the velocity profile is responsible
for the frequency dispersion. The idea is to couple the
two types of models in order to utilise the computational cost effectiveness of the two-dimensional Boussinesq
model where it is possible, and to apply the detailed,
but time-consuming Navier-Stokes (or Euler/CFD)
based free surface model only in areas where the flow
field is three-dimensional.
To calculate the essential boundary conditions for the
Boussinesq model, the full three-dimensional velocity
field and the free surface elevation is required. The free
surface elevation is not generally sufficient as pointed out
by Kofoed-Hansen et al. (2000).
The great advantage of using a Boussinesq-type model is
the possibility of simulating the wash sequence including
both Bernoulli and Kelvin wake. The tool has proven to
be very powerful. However, it still has its restrictions and
requires further development.

Regardless of what type of numerical model is determined

to be the most appropriate, it is necessary to calibrate it
against either full- or model-scale experiments and then
validate its output with field data before it can be used as
a practical tool for managing wake wash.

3.7.2 Full-scale trials and measurements Measurement techniques

A range of measurement techniques can be used to obtain

wave elevations generated by a vessel. It is beyond the
scope of these guidelines to discuss all the techniques in
detail. An overview of the techniques applied so far is
given and some of the difficulties and criticisms are discussed. The basic types of point measurement techniques
are listed in Table 3-1. Three different types of techniques
are listed in Table 3-2 that can be used to map a whole
wave field. Not all devices are suitable for all locations,
i.e., near field, far field or shoreline. The basic difficulty
is accessibility and range as listed in Table 3-1. The equipment used to measure the wake should undergo a rigorous
calibration procedure. It is important that the device is
capable of measuring long-period waves (over 20 seconds)
with small amplitude. If possible, validation should be
undertaken with a different type of equipment, particularly for those devices not measuring elevation directly.

15 Report of Working Group 41 - MARCOM

Table 3-1 Single point measurement techniques for ship wave measurements

Quantity measured: Technique:



Reference: (examples)

Wave staff

Water elevation


Mounting pole,

Shallow water

Parnell & KofoedHansen (2001)


solid structure

Very labour

Hannon & Varyani

Kirk McClure Morton
(1998), Koushan
et al. (2001)

Surveying rod Water elevation

& camera

Distance from
above surface


Solid structure
for transducer



Water elevation /
water depth

Echo sound



Water pressure

Piezo transducer


Depth limitation Whittaker (2001),

for short waves Stumbo et al. (1999)


Particle velocity

Acoustic Doppler

Watertight device Depth limitation Fissel et al. (2001)

for short waves

riding Buoy



Floating buoy
with adequate

Small signal for

very long waves

Koushan et al. (2001)

Table 3-2 Area measurement techniques (3 dimensional)




Stereo photogrammetry

Optical, two pictures taken at different locations

of same area at same time

Inui (1962).


Fast scanning laser beam across surface

and time delay of reflection measured

Bolt (2001)


Microwave beam scanning surface

and time delay of reflection measured
course over ground, and continuous recording of the vessel's position after constant time intervals, it is recommended to record still water trim, overall displacement,
and operation / control of trim flaps, stabilisers, and foils.
It has to be ensured that the vessel has been operating at
constant speed for a distance long enough (in particular
close to critical speed). The vessel needs to continue for
sufficient distance with constant speed after passing the
monitoring location (persistence of wash). It is also desirable that the seabed is smooth and constant in water depth
along the vessel's track unless deep-water trials are carried
out. The slope of the seabed perpendicular to the vessels
track should be uniform. However, constant water depth
would be desirable. Preferably trials should be undertaken with no or minimal current. In any case a repetition of Monitoring and trial procedures

Full-scale trials can serve two different purposes and as a
result the necessary procedures for undertaking such
assessments may differ.
General vessel performance measurements
Measurement of the wave generation by the vessel and the
wave profile at a given distance from the sailing line may
be carried out. In such cases a steady state wave pattern is
of interest. These trials are similar to tank tests and, hence,
are subject to similar procedures. However, it has to be
recognised that conditions are not as controlled as in a
towing tank. Apart from the vessel speed over ground,

Report of Working Group 41 - MARCOM


Wake assessment of a vessel along its operational route

Signal preparation: For the removal of high frequency

noise, a filter method of higher order is recommended.
A more efficient filter technique that does not result in
a phase lag is to make a fast Fourier transform, cut the
high frequency noise and make an inverse transform.
Moving averages may also be used, but are less
favourable as the signal is not removed but only
smoothed. Tidal variations or varying offsets may be
best removed with moving averages or high frequency
pass filter.
Wave cuts in the space domain derived from numerical
steady state simulations may be converted into the time


It may be necessary to monitor the wake of a vessel along

a given route for risk assessment or numerical modelling
purposes. Due to the variability of the operation, several
passages may need to be monitored to cover different tidal
stages, variable loading of the vessel or different operational procedures. The monitoring might, therefore, be
undertaken over a period of several days. The length of
the monitoring window needs to be sufficient to cover the
full extent of wash (possibly more than 40 minutes). It is
recommended to start monitoring well before the vessel
passes the monitoring location. The primary reason is that
waves could travel ahead of the vessel or the change of
operation further out causes larger disturbance than the
nearby passage. Monitoring should be continued after the
passage of the concerned vessel until no significant waves
have been measured for a considerable time. It is recommended to record at least still water trim, overall displacement, and operation of trim flaps, stabilisers, and foils.

(moreover the event is transient and not periodic). Modern

wavelet analysis might, however, be a good tool for mapping both frequency and time information.


at least one trial in opposite directions is recommended for

repeatability (assuming the vessel is symmetrical). The
background wave climate, with particular attention to
other vessels wake, wind generated waves and swells,
needs to be minimal to reduce post-processing of the data.

3.7.3 Model scale trials

Guidelines on tank testing have been published by the

International Towing Tank Conference and are not discussed in detail in these guidelines. Information can be
obtained through the Naval Architecture Institutions and
major naval research institutes and departments. Attention
may be drawn to the effects caused by the narrow tank
width in shallow water tests, which are discussed in Inui
(1954). Close to critical speed the towed model is capable
of producing a number of solitary waves depending on the
distance towed at such speed Dand et al. (1999). However,
this has limited practical relevance. The propulsion system
has also significant effect on the wave generation by the
vessel as shown by Taat et al. (1998). It was found that
the wave amplitude generated by a water jet propelled
model increased by 10 to 40 percent compared to the wave
amplitude generated by a towed model. Several research
groups have used wide shallow water tanks with a tank
width of up to 10 vessel lengths to establish an unreflected free wave pattern behind the vessel. Again the towing
length needs to be long enough to generate a steady-state
pattern (persistence of waves).

3.7.4 Wake analysis

Due to the short period of the event and the large spreading of periods, wave data needs to be analysed in the fulltime domain on a wave-by-wave basis. Frequency domain
analysis of super-critical wash using Fourier transforms is
not recommended due to the low-frequency content of
super-critical wash relative to the required sampling time

Wave-by-wave analysis: Complying with standard

engineering procedures the zero-crossing technique
should be adopted. Thus, the wake can be characterised
in terms of zero-crossing period and zero-crossing
wave height. Otherwise a peak-to-peak analysis can be

3.7.5 Wake assessment

The wave generation of the vessel can be assessed using

the wave-making resistance (denoted using either Rw or
the wave resistance coefficient Cw) as well as the ratio of
the distribution of resistance Rw to the propagation direction (Rw/).
As the wave trace is transient, the use of significant wave
height (H1/3 or Hm0) and average wave energy (energy per
unit area) is ambiguous. While significant wave height
deceptively suggests an average height throughout the
wash trace, both values depend on the sample length and
become smaller with large sample lengths for the same
wash event. In general, using maximum wave height
(Hmax) and relating maximum wave period (Tmax) and distribution of wave height and period through the entire
wave trace, e.g., Fig. 3-5, are good measures to characterize the wake at a given location for risk assessment purposes.

The objective of this section is to highlight some of the
potential safety and environmental impacts associated
with wake from high-speed vessels. Many of these impacts
are based on reported incidents that have been attributed to

17 Report of Working Group 41 - MARCOM


waves generated by vessels operating at or near critical

speed and the long-period waves that comprise the first
group of waves generated by vessels operating at supercritical speeds. Impacts that can be attributed to these
waves based on shoreline characteristics are summarised
in Table 4-1. Some of these impacts may be of more concern during certain times of the year, e.g., summer months
when beaches are being used by bathers, or more pronounced during certain environmental conditions, e.g.,
high or low tide or during calm weather, when large waves
may be unexpected.

Some examples are discussed in Kofoed-Hansen and

Mikkelsen (1997) and Marine Accident Investigation
Branch report (2000). Although potential impacts associated with wake from high-speed vessels are a legitimate
concern, it is important to note that many of the impacts
discussed in this section are not unique to these vessels.
Wake from other types of vessels can have the same, or
very similar, impacts. Although every effort has been
made to identify the most significant impacts, it is possi
ble that there may be others.


The potential for wake wash to have an adverse impact on

safety or the environment is related to the physical characteristics of the waterway and adjacent shoreline as well as
the characteristics of the wake. It is also related to how the
wake interacts with the people and vessels that use the
waterway, the structures that are built on, or near the
waterway, and the near-shore flora and fauna. The implication, whether wake will have an adverse impact on safety or the environment, is site specific. Overview

Just as the characteristics of the wake generated by a vessel is related to its physical characteristics (e.g., length,
beam, draft, displacement), how another vessel will be
impacted by wake is related to its own physical characteristics (Bolt, 2002). How a vessel responds to wake also
depends on how it is operated when wake is encountered
and is therefore related to the knowledge and skill of the
vessels operator. Consequently the specific risk to each
vessel must be assessed individually. This is true regardless of the type of vessel that generated the wake.
However, there are several general observations that can
be made about wake generated by high-speed vessels or
other vessels operating at or near critical speeds (MCA,


Safety impacts associated with wake generally involve:

People on or near the shoreline;

Vessels underway or moored; or,

Structures located in, on, or adjacent to the waterway.

All vessels are affected by some part of the near- or

super-critical wash due to the wide range of wave periods (see Fig. 3-5).

4.2.1 Safety of people

4.2.2 Safety of vessels

Wake characteristics in combination with shoreline features and waterway topography can be used to identify
potential impacts to the safety of people on or near the
shoreline. In general, impacts involving people on or near
the shoreline are primarily associated with transverse

Small craft are particularly at risk of being swamped,

broached, or capsized by the steep, near breaking waves
produced by vessels operating in the near-critical zone.

Table 4-1 Impacts related to the safety of people based on shoreline characteristics
(Kofoed-Hansen, 1996; MCA, 1998)
Shoreline Characteristics

Potential Risk

Probable Cause

Shallow sloping beach

People may be caught in

water or knocked down

Rapid inundation of large

areas from run up of long-period waves

Moderate / steep
beaches, boat ramps

People knocked down

Damage to boats and
vehicles on ramp

Plunging and breaking waves

Shorelines with sea walls

People on narrow beaches

trapped against sea wall

Rapid inundation of exposed beach

from run up of long-period waves
Breaking waves that overtop the seawall

Report of Working Group 41 - MARCOM



Long period wash waves may cause large vessels to

yaw and alter course, which in a confined channel can
increase the risk of grounding, or when passing other
vessels in close proximity can increase the risk of collision.

group of waves and the short-period waves comprising the

third group of waves generated by vessels operating at
super-critical speeds. Impacts to vessels that can be attributed to these waves are summarised in Table 4-2. Some of
these impacts may be more pronounced during certain
environmental conditions (e.g., calm weather, high or low
tide, or certain times of year when large numbers of small,
recreational vessels are using a waterway).

Maximum pitch motions are expected for most vessels

when the super-critical wash is encountered as either
head or following waves. Vessels on moorings and in harbours

Maximum heave motions are expected for bigger vessels when the super-critical wash is encountered as
beam waves.

The wave pattern reaching moored vessels is usually more

complicated compared to open water due to the influence
of coastal structures and the local bathymetry. The angle
of propagation is due to wave refraction, reflection, and
diffraction around solid obstacles and, unless the berth is
open to the incoming waves, these changes need to be considered. The wavelength can be shorter due to diffraction,
which can increase the height at the same time. Potential
impacts of wake on moored vessels are summarized in
Table 4-3.

Wash induced roll can increase the risk of grounding at

the turn of the bilge of deep draft, wide beam vessels,
such as container vessels, operating in confined channels with small under-keel clearances.

Orbital motions of fluid particles in shallow water are

elliptical rather than circular so that a vessels horizontal motion is larger than its vertical motion. Vessels underway

4.2.3 Structural damage

The effect of wake on floating structures depends on the

response characteristics of the object. Consequently the
risk to each structure must be assessed individually. Of
particular concern is the possibility that the waves will
cause excessive movement of floating structures. There is
also the possibility that the impact of breaking waves may
undercut pier footings.

Wake characteristics, in combination with the topography

of the waterway, can be used to identify potential impacts
to the safety of vessels. In general, impacts related to the
safety of vessels are primarily associated with transverse
waves generated by vessels operating at or near critical
speed as well as the long-period waves comprising the first

Table 4-2 Impacts related to the safety of vessels (Kofoed-Hansen, 1996; MCA, 1998)
Waterway Topography

Potential Impact

Probable Cause

Open water

Small craft may be swamped,

broached or capsized

Waves generated by vessel operating at

critical speed, or short-period, high-amplitude
waves in the third set of waves

Larger vessels may have

difficulty maintaining course

Long-period waves can cause

larger vessels to yaw

Vessels with small under keel

clearances may ground

Long-period waves result in considerable

seiching over large areas with shallow water

Small craft may have

difficulty maintaining course

Wash generated by vessels operating at

trans- and super-critical speeds can create an
oscillating current over bars and shallow banks

Small craft may be swamped,

broached or capsized;
passengers and crew may be
washed overboard

Long-period waves generated by vessels

operating at super-critical speeds and transverse
waves generated by vessels operating at suband trans-critical speeds may become very
steep and break

Harbour or estuary
entrances with
shallow bars

Shallow banks (<3 meters)

19 Report of Working Group 41 - MARCOM

Table 4-3 Potential impacts on moored vessels (MCA, 2001)


Potential Impact

Probable Cause

Moored vessels

Excessive movement
(surge, heave and roll) may
cause moorings to fail, damage
to vessels as well as docks and
piers, vessels to touch bottom

Transverse waves generated by vessels operating

at or near trans-critical speeds and both
long-period and tail waves generated by vessels
operating at super-critical speeds

Vessels with small under keel

clearance may ground

Long-period waves result in considerable

seiching over large areas with shallow water

Loading / discharging cargo

Disruption of cargo operations

that are sensitive to vessel

Long-period waves generated by vessels operating

at super-critical speeds

Vessels alongside a moored

vessel (tugs, bunker barges,

Damage to either or both vessels Transverse waves generated by vessels operating

due to large relative motion due at or near trans-critical speeds and both
to different response to waves
long-period and tail waves generated by vessels
operating at super-critical speeds Historic and archaeological monuments

to the marine environment that are observed in a given

area requires detailed, local studies.

The possibility of damage to sites of cultural significance,

including historic monuments and archaeological sites, on
the seabed (such as old historical sites and wrecks), and
the shoreline (forts and other historical sites) is prevalent
in several countries including Denmark, New Zealand, and
Sweden. For example, in the archipelago of Gteborg,
Sweden, many bays are sheltered from large wind waves
and the tide is minimal. After the introduction of highspeed ferries a several-hundred-year-old burial ground for
sailors close to the sea was threatened by wake erosion.
Although the erosion was halted in 1997 when the speed
of the fast ferries was limited, there is evidence suggesting
that wake from large container ships may be a heavier
threat (Svensson, 1999).


The severity of any environmental impact caused by wake

will depend on how the wash regime differs from the natural wave climate. It is also dependent on the susceptibility of the recipient shores to wave attack. Naturally sheltered environments and soft sedimentary shores are more
likely to be adversely impacted than naturally exposed
environments with rocky shores.
The available literature on the ecological impacts of highspeed vessel wake is limited insofar as most studies have
focused on the wash generated by watercraft other than
high speed vessels, i.e. conventional ferries, boats, and
personal water craft (jet skis and wave riders). However,
the studies that have been conducted are useful since they
highlight potential effects of high-speed vessel wake on
the marine environment.

4.3.1 Overview

All waves, whether generated by the wind or a vessel, can

have some impact on the marine environment. As indicated in Section 4.3.2, there are characteristics of high-speed
vessel wake that contribute to its higher propensity vis-vis wake from other vessels to impact the marine environment. However, for the reasons raised in Section 4.3.4 it
cannot be assumed a priori that high-speed vessel wake is
the cause of any adverse impacts to the marine environment that might be observed in areas where these vessels
are operating. Determining the cause of adverse impacts

Report of Working Group


4.3.2 Potential impacts Physical change

In general, an increase in wave action, whether from natural causes (e.g., storm events) or vessel wake will result
in higher energy within the coastal system. This increase
can result in an adjustment to the beach environment
including beach orientation, erosion, accretion, and
increasing the envelope of dynamic change in the attainment of a new equilibrium to the wave conditions. One
factor influencing the vulnerability of a shoreline to being
changed by waves is its morphological state. In general,



a stable shoreline is less vulnerable to attack than one that

has been previously disturbed, either because of prior
storm events or human activity (e.g., shoreline construction or sediment removal). The vulnerability of a coastal
zone to wave attack is also dependent upon its material
composition and typical particle size.

impaired if their surfaces are covered with silt.

Resuspension of sediments also increases the turbidity of
the water, and by blocking the light that reaches the bottom can have an adverse impact on benthic organisms.

The addition of energy to the system from wake can cause

sediment mobilisation and accelerated weathering of
rocky shores. The probable wake related causes of these
impacts are summarised in Table 4-4.

The flora and fauna that inhabit coastal environments are

subject to inundation as well as the hydrodynamic forces
associated with both wind and vessel generated waves.
Waves are a primary agent of ecological disturbance that
affect individuals, populations, and communities to varying degrees. The potential biological impacts of wake on
coastal and shoreline habitats, which are summarised in
Table 4-5, are a consequence of changes to the natural
physical environment or natural wave climate. Without
external influences, near-shore and intertidal habitats may
exist in a state of long-term equilibrium. Although an
increase in the energy within a coastal system by introducing vessel wake can be sufficient to upset the equilibrium (Kirk McClure Morton, 2000), it is usually difficult
to assess changes caused by a changed wave regime due to
vessel wake.

Changes to the physical environment, with particular

emphasis on sediment transport, can cause a variety of different environmental impacts. Mobilisation of larger sediments can result in rapid changes to biological communities. Sedentary organisms may be relocated, crushed, and
damaged as the rocks and boulders on which they are
attached are rolled around. Resuspension of finer sediments can create an abrasive environment that may damage soft-bodied animals and algae and prevent spores from
settling. When sediments do settle out, they can potentially smother benthic organisms and cover fish eggs and
spawning grounds. Aquatic plants can be physiologically Impacts on flora and fauna

Table 4.4 Physical impacts of vessel wake

(Bell et al., 2000; Kirk McClure Morton, 2000; Single, 2002)
Potential Impact

Probable Cause

Sediment Transport
Sediment resuspension
and associated increase
in turbidity

Long-period waves penetrate deeper into the water column than

shorter-period waves and can disturb bottom sediments farther
off-shore than would likely occur under normal conditions.

Cross-shore and long-shore

transport of bottom sediment
and associated accretion
or erosion

Weathering of Rocky Shores

Large, steep waves similar to storm generated waves can move sediment
seaward; if they attack the beach at an angle, the material will be transported
along the shore. Short, steep waves may transport material onto higher
sections of the beach. Depending on the angle of attack, wake wash
encountering the shore can result in either cross-shore or long-shore transport
of sand and other shoreline material. Large, steep waves, similar to those
generated by storm waves, can move material seaward and form a bar
in front of the beach. If the waves attack the beach at an angle,
the material will be moved along the beach. Short, steep waves can move
material higher up on the beach. High-speed vessel wake wash has been
observed to result in both accretion and erosion.
The impact of the incoming wave and the resulting fluctuations in cracks
can separate layers of rock from the bedrock. Laboratory measurements suggest
that regular waves, e.g., vessel wake wash, generate higher crack pressures
than mixed waves, e.g., wind generated waves, of similar magnitude.
Hence the weathering of rocky shores by the leading waves of the wake
from high-speed vessels may be larger than the weathering induced
by comparable natural seas.

21 Report of Working Group 41 - MARCOM

Table 4-5 Biological impacts of vessel wake

(Danish Maritime Institute, 1997; Bell et al., 2000; Hotchkiss et al., 2002)
Potential Impact

Probable Cause

Fixed and mobile organisms may be dislodged and stranded;

plants may be broken and or uprooted. Overtime species
distribution within the intertidal and near shore zone may change;
some species may be removed

Waves with higher than ambient energy

due to wake wash breaking on individual
plants and animals. Sediment mobilisation
can damage individual organisms as well as
cause habitat loss.

Smothering of plants, sedimentary animals, and spawning grounds

Settling out of fine, suspended sediment

Loss of sea grasses

Turbidity from sediment mobilisation can

reduce the amount of light reaching
the bottom

Altered distribution of species within the intertidal zone

Increased immersion due to regular

inundation of intertidal zone

Localized algal blooms and associated increase in turbidity

Resuspension of nutrients associated with

sediment mobilisation

Reduced productivity and loss of bird nesting areas; change in

feeding behaviour of birds, lower over wintering survival rates

Beach nesting and shoreline feeding areas

inundated by run up of long period waves;
cliff nesting areas inundated by
breaking waves

Reduced productivity of seal rookeries; loss of haul-out areas

Inundation by breaking waves

4.3.3 Differentiating between causes

4.3.4 Predicting environmental impact



Although high-speed vessels (e.g., high-speed ferries)

have been in operation for over ten years, relatively little is
known about the impact of their wake on the marine environment vis--vis the wake from other types of vessels.
This is mainly due to the difficulty of distinguishing
between impacts that result from different causes including normal wind generated waves, storms, high-speed and
non high-speed vessel wake, and other human activities.
Making such a distinction is particularly difficult since the
coastal environment naturally is always undergoing some
change (Kirk McClure Morton, 2000).

manifest. The implication is that any effort to assess how

high-speed vessel wake may impact the marine environment will require the comparison of data obtained both
before and after a particular shoreline is exposed to wake
from these vessels. It should be noted that in many cases
the physical impact could be initially large and then
become more stable; therefore, any assessed impacts
based on initial trends could possibly result in overestimating the impact. Although models can be developed to
help predict how wake might impact a particular shoreline,
given the complexity of shoreline systems, model results
should not be generalized to similar shorelines in other
areas (Bell et al., 2000).

Even though most coastal areas are always undergoing

some change, the physical and biological environment of
a beach or a coastline generally is shaped by the predominant wave climate, which is the product of both regular
wind and storm generated waves as well as vessel wake.
Hence, if the wave climate changes significantly, it is reasonable to expect that the coastline and its physical and
biological properties will also change, although it is not
always immediately apparent how the change will become

Report of Working Group 41



Concern about the potential safety and environmental

impact of high-speed vessel wake are causing high-speed
vessel operators and waterway managers to establish
either voluntary or mandatory management measures.
Establishing effective management measures for highspeed vessel wake requires an understanding of the causal

5.2.2 Operational measures


Operational measures can be used to reduce both the safety and environmental impacts of wake. Because the potential impacts of wake are related to the physical characteristics of both the vessel and the waterway, operational
measures are generally related to the route or the vessels
operational profile. Insofar as ferry routes are a function
of geography, it is usually not possible to reduce potential
impacts by selecting an alternate route. However, there are
some changes that might be possible, including
Moving a route farther from shore to increase the distance between the vessels track and the area where
wake impacts are of concern.
Establishing route segments so that changes in water
depth do not cause the vessel to transition from subcritical or super-critical speeds into the critical speed


relationship between a vessels wake and its actual or

potential impact. As discussed in Sections 3 and 4, establishing this causal relationship is a multi-faceted problem
that requires understanding how wake interacts with other
vessels, people, structures, and near-shore flora and fauna
as well as the bottom and shoreline of the waterway. This
requires knowledge of the physical characteristics of the
wake generated by the vessel as well as how the wake is
affected by the physical characteristics of the waterway as
it propagates away from the vessels line of travel and
shoals to break at the shore. It also requires understanding
the effect of the management measures that are considered
on wake generation to ensure that the measures implemented will be effective and that they will not result in
unintended consequences. The implication is that there is
not a simple, universal solution for managing high-speed
wake insofar as how wake interacts with the physical environment and human activities is site specific. In addition,
there are differences in the wake generated by different
hull forms and sizes and operating speeds differences
that may permit alternative ways of mitigating the potential impact.


Mitigation measures can be divided into three categories:

vessel design, operational measures, and non-operational
measures. It is likely that the management regime adopted for any given route will involve a combination of operational and non-operational measures.

5.2.1 Vessel design

Insofar as the wake generated by a vessel is directly related to its hull form, vessel design is a primary means of
managing wake. Although it is possible to modify a vessel after it is constructed (e.g., increasing its length or
installing trim tabs or interceptors) to improve the characteristics of the wake that is generated, the cost of doing so
may be prohibitive. Similarly, modifications may be prohibited by regulatory requirements or physical constraints.
Therefore, naval architects should understand the potential
implications of the wake generated by a given hull design
for wake management and consider any wash criteria
related to the intended route including design requirements, along with emissions, speed, and other limiting factors. There are, however, key features of high-speed vessel wake that cannot be reduced or removed by optimising
the hull form and design ratios. An example is the wave
period, which generally increases with vessel speed and
distance from the navigation line and is a particularly
important parameter in wave impact in shallow water

Relocating where course or speed changes are made to

avoid focusing wake at a particular location or to avoid
generating wash associated with the critical speed
Altering the orientation of a route relative to the shoreline to change the angle at which the wake encounters
an area of concern.
Modifying the schedule to reduce the potential for
impacts that may be associated with predicable shoreline use or environmental factors (e.g., tide or sustained
winds from a particular direction).
Although the characteristics of the wake generated by a
vessel are a function of the hull form and cannot be altered
unless the vessel undergoes modifications after it is constructed, there are several operational measures related to
the vessels operational profile that can be used to reduce
the potential impacts of vessel wake. These include
Training vessel masters and mates so that they understand the relationship between the navigation of the
vessel and the generation of wake.
Ensuring that the navigation of the vessel conforms
with the courses and speeds established for each leg of
the route.
Ensuring that the vessel is trimmed on each run to minimize the wake that is generated.
Establishing contingency plans for situations (e.g., loss
of engine power), or other situations when it may not be
possible to follow normal operating procedures.

23 Report of Working Group 41 - MARCOM

5.2.3 Non-operational measures

Another aspect of the model is that it is scaleable so the

level of effort is appropriate for the safety and environmental impacts being considered. The process involves
four steps:


The intent of non-operational management measures is to

reduce safety related impacts of wake by lessening the
potential for people and small craft to interact directly
with wake. Some non-operational measures include:

1. Characterizing the route.

2. Identifying the potential impacts and severity of wake.

Posting signs on shore or including notices on navigation charts in areas where high-speed vessel wake
might reasonably be encountered.

3. Developing and assessing potential management measures.

4. Implementing and monitoring management measures.

Designing new sea walls and quay walls or retro-fitting

existing ones with wave absorbing materials to reduce
wave amplification by reflection. And,

Conducting a route assessment requires an understanding

of specific vessel and route variables. The information
needed to conduct the route assessment can be grouped
into five general areas:


Engaging in outreach activities to ensure the public is

aware of the potential impacts associated with wake.

1. The characteristics of the vessels wake in its entire

operational envelope.

Coordinating with other operators and harbour authorities or owners to identify impacts and means of mitigation.

2. The bathymetry and shoreline topography of the proposed route.

Non-operational measures intended to inform the public

are particularly important in areas where wake from highspeed vessels is not actively managed or is a new activity.

3. Waterway activities along the route.

4. Shore activities along the route.


5. Properties of the physical and biological environment

of the adjacent coastline.

5.3.1 Overview

Developing appropriate management measures for highspeed vessel wake requires identifying the potential safety
and environmental impacts the wash may have. This
requires ensuring that the interrelationship of wake generation, transformation, and impact is understood. Since the
impacts that may occur are the result of a number of factors, including wake generation and transformation, the
physical characteristics of the waterway and its shoreline,
as well as how the waterway and shoreline are used, this
interrelationship is route dependent. The route assessment
is an objective, systematic process for identifying potential
impacts and for developing management measures that
may be implemented by vessel operators and waterway
managers that are appropriate for a particular route.

Route characterization involves dividing the planned route

or routes, if alternatives are available, into segments.
Although there are a number of ways this can be accomplished, the most practical approach is to segment the
route according to where the vessel will be operating at
sub-critical, near-critical, and super-critical speeds based
on the ranges of depth Froude numbers described in
Figure 5-1. In addition, deep-water operation might be
segmented by conventional low speed and high speed
sub-critical speeds (MCA, 1998). Stumbo et al. (2000)
have observed that in deep water the transition from conventional low speed to high speed sub-critical speed
occurs when vessels have a length Froude number
between 0.65 and 0.9. Using depth Froude numbers, and
length Froude numbers when appropriate, to segment the
route provides a means of conducting a first order assessment of potential wake impacts along a planned route. It
may identify places where some change to the route (e.g.,
a speed or course change), may eliminate or at least significantly reduce some of the potential wake impacts.

A route assessment is intentionally flexible so that it can

be applied to different waterways and different vessels. It
is also flexible with regard to the outcome. In other words,
it does not favour one measure for reducing potential wake
impacts over any other. Similarly, whereas in some
instances a single management measure may be sufficient
to prevent an impact from occurring, there may be other
cases where a suite of different measures may be needed.

Report of Working Group 41 - MARCOM

5.3.2 Route characterization


Figure 5-1 Operational zones for route characterization based on wash regimes

5.3.3 Impact identification

Once the route is divided into segments, the type and location as well as the likelihood and severity of the potential
impacts that wake may have on each segment of the route
must be identified. It is also necessary to identify the
aspect of wake that may cause the impact and then determine whether wake from high-speed vessels is a primary,
secondary, or tertiary cause of the identified impact.

C Identifying potential impacts

the characteristics of the waterways natural and physical

environment. There are any number of ways that this can
be accomplished, including site surveys and meeting with
representatives of different waterway users, natural
resource agencies, and land owners. It is likely that the
level of effort required to identify potential safety and
environmental impacts will vary between routes and
between different segments of the same route. Regardless
of the means and level of effort employed, it is important
that the result is a complete picture of the type and location of the potential safety and environmental impacts that
wake may have on each segment of the route.

Identifying potential wake impacts requires first ascertaining who, (e.g., swimmers or people near the shore), or
what, (e.g., small-craft underway or moored in marinas,
near-shore or coastal marine habitats, or waterfront structures) may be impacted. It also requires determining the
locations where wake impacts can reasonably be expected
to occur. The description of where an impact may occur
should include some reference to the shoreline (e.g., offshore, near-shore, on-shore), as well as a geographic reference (e.g., the name of a location or other landmark).
Although latitude and longitude may be useful for providing more precise locations, the use of common names provides a means to quickly identify areas where wake may
have an adverse impact.
Identifying potential wake impacts requires understanding
of how the waterway is used as well as information about

When identifying potential impacts, it is helpful to establish when a particular impact may occur. Determining
when an impact might occur is needed for determining the
frequency that high-speed vessel wake might cause a
potential impact. It also might help to highlight possible
causal relationships that have to exist for an impact to
occur (e.g., state of the tide or sustained winds from a
given direction). Several different timeframes can be used
when identifying when an impact might occur. Whereas
some potential impacts might occur multiple times a day,
others might occur infrequently, for example, those that
are related to seasonal weather patterns. Establishing the
timeframe might also help highlight impacts that are not
exclusively related to wake from high-speed vessels.

Report of Working Group 41 - MARCOM

Table 5-1 Likelihood and consequence scores


Very Likely
Quite Possible

Every passage
Most passages
High tide during passage
During storms or other periodic
environmental conditions
Only during unusual /
unpredictable circumstances


Very High





Unacceptable impact, people may receive
serious injuries or die, small craft cannot
navigate safely, waterfront structures cannot
be occupied / used, marine environment
Noticeable impact, people may be injured,
moored vessels or waterfront structures may
be damaged, marine environment likely
to be damaged
No noticeable impact, use of shoreline /
waterway not interrupted, any damage
to marine environment is minimal Wake components

will be limited site-specific data available upon which to

base assessment. Therefore, the assessment must be based
on the best available information and the experience of
those who are conducting it.

To develop appropriate management measures it is necessary to determine both the component of wake (i.e., wave
height, wave length, energy, and the magnitude of the
high-speed vessels wake) in terms of characteristic wave
height/energy, wave period/length and wave direction that
might be expected to cause each of the potential impacts
that are identified. In some instances there may be more
than one component that might be of concern. Failure to
identify the component, or components, of wake that reasonably can be expected to cause a potential impact can
result in developing management measures that are not

C How important is wake?

Once the preceding steps have been completed, a determination should be made whether high-speed vessel wake is
a primary, secondary, or tertiary cause of the potential
impacts that are identified. Making such a determination
is necessary to help provide some basis for establishing the
extent to which a high-speed vessel operator should reasonably be expected to be responsible for preventing a
potential impact from occurring. Making this determination will require having an understanding of the impacts
that may be caused by other vessels as well as those that
result from natural processes. It will also require an
understanding of the physical differences of waves generated by other vessels as well as those generated by natural
processes vis--vis those generated by high-speed vessels.
As discussed in Section 4.3.3, it is recognized that it may
not always be possible to make this determination with a
high degree of certainty. Likelihood and consequence of potential impacts

After the potential impacts and the responsible component

of high-speed vessel wake have been identified, it is necessary to assess both the likelihood that a particular impact
will occur and its potential consequence. Suggested scales
for assigning likelihood and consequence scores are
shown in Table 5-1. It is recognized that the descriptions
and definitions for the different scores are somewhat subjective. This is unavoidable since, for the most part, there

Report of Working Group 41 - MARCOM


T Priority

Since it may not be reasonable to develop mitigation measures for every potential impact, it is necessary to establish
a prioritised list of those that are identified. An initial prioritised list can be established based on an index number
(In) calculated using the following equation:
In =

Ls x Cs

where Ls is the likelihood score, Cs is the consequence

score and CFs is the causal factor score. CFs values are
provided in Table 5-2. An example of potential management actions based on the index number is provided in
Table 5-3.

5.3.4 Developing and assessing potential

management measures Overview

The route assessment is the foundation of any measures

that are developed to managing wake. To be effective, the

management measures that are employed should reduce

the identified impact by
Focusing on the component of wake that is responsible
for the potential impact; and

Ensuring the magnitude of the component that is of

concern is maintained within acceptable limits.
In addition, management measures should be appropriate
for the location where they will be implemented.
Management measures may be mandated by government
agency regulations, company operating policies, or both.
Establishing management measures should involve agencies responsible for waterways management, vessel operators, and effected stakeholders. Establishing management measures

The first step in the process of developing a management

regime for wake is to determine whether there is adequate
data available to establish a maximum value or standard
for the component or components that are of concern that

Table 5-2 Causal factor scores

Causal Factor Score (CFs)


High-speed vessel wake wash is the primary cause of the impact

High-speed vessel wake wash is a secondary cause of the impact

High-speed vessel wake wash is a tertiary cause of the impact

Table 5-3 Index numbers and recommended actions (MCA, 1998)

Index Number (In)

Recommended Action


No mitigation required

6 10


No mitigation required. Monitoring is required to ensure controls

are maintained.

11 - 15


Mitigation is required, but the costs of prevention may be taken into

account. Mitigation measures should be implemented within a defined
period. Monitoring is also required. Where moderate risk is associated
with high or very high consequences further assessment may be necessary
to establish more precisely the likelihood of harm as basis for determining
the need for mitigation.

16 - 20


Vessel should not operate on route until risk has been reduced.

21 -25


Vessel should not operate on route until risk has been reduced.
If it is not possible to reduce risk even with unlimited resources,
the vessel should be prohibited from operating on the route.

27 Report of Working Group 41 - MARCOM

cannot be exceeded when measured at a specified location

(e.g., a minimum water depth or distance from the shoreline). The ultimate responsibility for making this determination resides with the agencies responsible for waterways
management. However, vessel operators and effected
stakeholders should participate in this process.


Once potential management measures are identified, new

likelihood, consequence, and causal factor scores should
be assigned and the index number recalculated to determine whether it is within an acceptable level for the vessel
to operate on the route in question.

5.3.5 Monitoring

Insofar as the route assessment may identify a number of

different wake related impacts that are of concern, a single
standard may not be appropriate for the entire route.
Therefore, to avoid overprotecting some portions of a
route while not providing enough protection along other
portions, it will be necessary to establish different standards for different portions of a route. This is particularly
true if the identified impacts are related to different components of wake. An advantage of standards is that compliance can be verified by measuring the wake. However,
it is probable that in many areas sufficient data may not be
available to establish a standard or set of standards. In
these instances, it is necessary to either establish a value
based on the best available data for the component of wake
that is of concern or, if the data cannot support a standard,
establish general criteria to minimize the potential that
wake will have an adverse impact on safety or the marine


A monitoring program should be developed to determine

whether the management measures that are implemented
are effective in preventing or reducing impacts associated
with wake. Although the details of the monitoring program are site specific, at a minimum the program should
provide a means of determining or verifying whether wake
from high-speed vessels is having adverse impacts on
safety or the marine environment. In some instances, this
will require having access to baseline data so that impacts
that occur over time (e.g., shoreline erosion or habitat
degradation), can be detected. It may also be necessary for
the monitoring program to provide data that can be used to
differentiate between impacts associated with high-speed
vessel wake and impacts associated with wake from other
vessels or natural processes. This is particularly important
for impacts where high-speed vessel wake is considered to
be a secondary or tertiary factor.

Many areas where high-speed vessels have been introduced have had conventional commercial vessel traffic for
some time, and the environment is likely to have been
modified by wakes from those vessels as well as by
numerous other human activities and natural processes. In
most cases the wakes of conventional vessels generally
cause few complaints, presumably due to familiarity over
time. For such locations the wake from conventional commercial vessels may be used as a reference for establishing
a standard for high-speed vessel wake.

The characteristics of wake from high-speed vessels are

fundamentally different from the wake generated by conventional displacement vessels. Although wake from any
type of vessel can potentially have adverse impacts on
waterway safety or the marine environment, wake from
high-speed vessels has received a significant amount of
attention in countries around the world. In addition to
concerns about the potential safety and environmental
impacts of high-speed vessel wake, there is also concern
that efforts to manage wake might result in the development of standards that are inappropriate and which might
also unduly restrict the operation of these vessels. As a
result, vessel operators and waterway managers alike have
tried a number of different approaches for managing highspeed vessel wake.

Despite the fact that wake generated by high-speed vessels

is substantially different from wash caused by conventional ships and ferries, the choice of a standard should reflect
a connection between these two types of wake.
Characteristic measures such as wave energy (Stumbo et
al., 1999), maximum wave height prior to breaking
(Kofoed-Hansen, 1996; Parnell and Kofoed-Hansen,
2001), particle velocity at the seabed, and wave run-up on
the shorelines can be used in a formulation of standard.
Standards based on this approach have been implemented
in Denmark, Sweden, New Zealand, and the United States.

Based on the experience to date from these different

efforts, it is apparent that the effective management of
high-speed vessel wake is a multi-faceted problem that
defies a simple one size fits all solution. It is also apparent that a means of managing high-speed vessel wake that
addresses the legitimate concerns related to waterway
safety and protection of the marine environment while also
not unduly restricting their operation must be identified for
the full benefits of high-speed vessels to be realized.
Waterway managers and high-speed vessel operators are
encouraged to follow the guidelines for conducting a route
assessment and developing management measures that are
outlined in this report.

After acceptable standards or criteria have been established, the next step is to identify an appropriate suite of
management measures. It is likely that this suite will
include both operational and non-operational measures.
Since the measures that may be employed to comply with
the established standards and criteria are linked directly to
the vessel and its operation, vessel operators should have
the primary responsibility for identifying specific management measures. However, it is expected that the management measures will be subject to review by the agency
responsible for waterways management.

Report of Working Group 41 - MARCOM



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31 Report of Working Group 41 - MARCOM

categorize problems met



analyse in which ways such problems may be foreseen

and avoided

The introduction of high-speed ferries in the mid-nineties

has led to wake conditions not known earlier.

gather information on regulations established in various

countries and regions

The vessels in question are characterised by a travelling

speed of 35 to 45 knots. They may be catamaran types but
can also be single hull vessels.

coordinate study with IMO working groups on problems in relations to high-speed ferries;

all in order to set up guidelines for traffic planners, ship

owners, and relevant public authorities, including waterway managers.


According to observations by the general public in

Denmark, the waves created by the wake are more dangerous than the waves created by traditional ferries. They
are higher and they may appear without warning and suddenly rise in shallow waters, then break and cause run-up
on the coast. Danish newspapers and television news have
shown dangerous situations for small boats and for
bathers, and large numbers of complaints and protests
from coastal house owners and landowners, from fishermen, anglers, sailors, rowers, hunters, divers, swimmers/holidaymakers were received by the authorities.
Anxieties were also voiced regarding coastal erosion, subsidence of natural stone reefs and disturbance of bird sanctuaries and dike safety.
In 1995 the Danish Maritime Authority commissioned the
Danish Hydraulic Institute to carry out a technical investigation of wake wash from fast ferries.
This investigation concluded that

the new high speed vehicle ferries generate waves,

which, in coastal and shallow water regions, are considered by the general public as being considerably different to the waves caused by conventional vessels.
this view has been widely confirmed by the measurements and calculations which have been made.

The report also mentions that wake wash problems have

appeared in Sweden, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand,
England, Portugal, and U.S.A. In Denmark regulations
were issued in 1998 concerning the effects of waves from
high-speed ferries on leisure activities, on the environment
in general and in particular on erosion and dike safety

PIANC started in 1995 a working group that deals with

harbour facilities for high-speed ferries. The task for this
new working group is therefore limited to high-speed ferries in motion. This working group was requested to
gather information internationally about experiences
with high-speed ferries

Report of Working Group 41 - MARCOM