Words from Flotilla

United States Coast Guard Auxiliary 



The U.S. Coast Guard is concerned about the sale and availability of unapproved recreational and commercial vessel navigation lights. Purchasers of such lighting should be aware replacement lighting may be improper for its application due to the failure by manufacturers to meet technical certification requirements. Furthermore, technical advances in marine lighting, such as the use of Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs), rope lighting, underwater lighting, and other various types of decorative lighting, may violate navigation light provisions of the Nautical Rules of the Road.

The Marine Safety Alert basically deals with the use of non-certified lights on recreational boats. With the new technology of light specifically LED there are a lot of options for lighting both under and below the waterline. New Navigation lights with LED if tempting because of the power saving but REMEMBER they have to have a U.S. Coast Guard approval. There are certain angle the light must cover, intensity and color requirements that must be met. Some of the cheaper units will not meet these standards. Different length and types of boats must meet different intensity criteria. The bulbs or fixtures must have this label stamped on the package.

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.

A further caution is noted about using exterior lights that interfere with nav lights being seen at a distance. Placing rope lights or flood lights that over power the nav lights can be hazardous to boating safety at night. It would seem that illuminating the boat would increase safety but when you cover the nav lights with other lighting it could interfere with a distant boat to be able to determine what direction and speed you are doing.

Boaters should be concerned about installing "decorative" lighting on their boats in various places, including underwater, on the rub rail, or just above the waterline. Care must be taken 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. Such circustances may represent a violation of Rule 20

Remember cheaper isn't usually better

Published on Feb 11, 2016.

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