NoiseSpotter is a passive acoustic monitoring system that characterizes, classifies, and geo-locates anthropogenic and natural sounds in near real time. It was developed with the primary goal of supporting the evaluation of potential acoustic effects of offshore renewable energy projects. The system consists of a compact array of three acoustic vector sensors, which measures acoustic pressure and the three-dimensional particle velocity vector associated with the propagation of an acoustic wave, thereby inherently providing bearing information to an underwater source of sound. By utilizing an array of three vector sensors, the application of beamforming techniques can provide sound source localization, allowing for characterization of the acoustic signature of specific underwater acoustic sources. Here, performance characteristics of the system are presented, using data from controlled acoustic transmissions in a quiet environment and ambient noise measurements in an energetic tidal channel in the presence of non-acoustic flow noise. Data quality is demonstrated by the ability to reduce non-acoustic flow noise contamination, while system utility is shown by the ability to characterize and localize sources of sound in the underwater environment.