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Boat Navigation Lights

Unlike cars, boats cannot operate at night using headlights and taillights alone. At sea, boats can approach from any direction and navigation lights used have a great impact on visibility. Boat lights determine how far you can see and how visible you are to others. Choosing the right lighting not only allows you to comply with legal requirements, but also to arrive to your destination safely.

Legal requirements

The installation and application of navigation lights should comply with the international regulations for preventing collisions at sea. There are many principles outlined by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) which you need to keep in mind while replacing or installing navigation lights. Some of the standard lights outlined by the authority include: side lights, stern lights and masthead lights. Failure to meet law requirements can lead to prosecution or heavy fines. Nowadays, LED boat lights are the ones mostly used for navigation lighting due to their long lifespan.

Boat Size

According to the AMSA, boats that are under 12 metres in length need only a single all-round light. Powerboats that do not exceed 20 metres need to show stern lights, sidelights and masthead lights and if in motion, must show navigation lights. The only exceptions are sailing or rowing boats under 7 metres, however, they should carry a lantern or torch that shines white light, which should be made visible to approaching boats early to prevent collision. An all-round light that is visible from all directions should be displayed by anchored powerboats and sail vessels that are under 20 metres. As a boat owner, knowing your boat’s size and the laws that apply in your country is crucial.

Mounting and Control

Navigation lights should be mounted high enough so that they are visible from afar. In addition, if your boat has sails, the lights should be positioned in such a way that the sails do not shadow them and affect their visibility. You should also make sure that glare emitted by these lights does not affect approaching vessels. Avoid placing green and red lights at an angle so that they show exactly where the boat is heading. Installing a switch panel into your boat’s electrical system is a good addition that allows you to control all navigation lights from a central position.

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