Equip your boat with proper navigation lights


A recent U.S. Coast Guard Safety Bulletin warns boaters about the purchase and installation of unapproved vessel navigation lights.

According to the Coast Guard, replacement lighting from some manufacturers fails to meet technical certification requirements, making the lighting improper for its application. The Coast Guard also cautions boaters that the use of LEDs, rope lighting, underwater lighting and other types of decorative lighting may violate navigation light provisions of the Nautical Rules of the Road. Consult bit.ly/navrules for more information.

Uninformed consumers may be tempted to purchase this less expensive replacement lighting; however, using lights without the proper chromaticity, luminous intensity or cut-off angles could result in a violation or could cause an accident.

Recreational boaters should ensure that purchased navigation lights contain the following information on the light or its packaging:

  • USCG Approval 33 CFR 183.810
  • MEETS ABYC A-16 or equivalent
  • TESTED BY (an approved laboratory)
  • Name of the light manufacturer
  • Number of Model
  • Visibility of the light in nautical miles
  • Date on which the light was type-tested
  • Identification and specification of the bulb used in the compliance test

When installing decorative lighting underwater, on the rub rail or just above the waterline, boaters should ensure that these lights

  • cannot be mistaken for navigation lights,
  • do not impair the visibility or distinctive character of approved and properly placed navigation lights, and
  • do not interfere with the operator’s ability to maintain a proper lookout.

To avoid problems, boaters should avoid purchasing and installing any lights that don’t present the required certification data.
For more information, consult the Coast Guard Safety Bulletin at bit.ly/alert1015, or email cgnav@uscg.mil with questions and concerns.

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The Ensign magazine is an official channel of United States Power Squadrons, America’s Boating Club, a volunteer organization whose members teach boating skills and best practices to help improve the safety of our nation’s waterways. Learn more.