Navigation Rules On Line
Boat Builders are not required to install navigation lights. Navigation lights
are normally the boat owner/operator's responsibility. However, most boat builders install
lights because that is what their customers want. If you do install navigation
lights, the Coast Guard will require you to install them correctly. They may
even require you to recall
boats that do not have correctly installed navigation lights. Also, if you do install
navigation lights you then you must put a certification label on the boat.
Clarification: The navigation rules on positioning
of lights apply to anyone who installs lights whether it be the builder
or the owner/operator. The rule requires they be installed correctly.
The rules for certification of lights apply only to manufacturers,
dealers and distributors.
A few years ago the Coast Guard changed the rules on navigation
lights. Prior to the current rule, navigation lights on recreational boats had to
meet the requirements of the Navigation Rules but did not have to be certified by
the light manufacturer. Now they must be certified and labeled as meeting the
requirements of ABYC Standard
A-16 or an equivalent standard. Most will simply have a label that says USCG
1nm or USCG 2nm, meaning they meet the rules and are visible at 1 nautical mile or 2
The entire labeling requirement is found in
Title 33 Code of Federal Regulations Subopart 183.810.
The label says:
|USCG Approval 33CFR 183.810
Meets ABYC A-16 (or equivalent standard)
Tested by (name of the laboratory that tested them)
Name of Manufacturer
Visibility of the light in nautical miles.
Date on which the light was tested
Identification and specification of the bulb used in compliance testing.
A combo Red/Green with the label
However, on very small boats less than 7
meters in length (22 ft) that go no faster than 7 knots, the
lights can be any all round white light. On sailing or
rowing dinghies on inland waters any light is all that is
required. Even a flashlight is within the rules. These do not have
to be certified.
Obviously that label is too large to fit on most navigation lights so the
rule allows the label to be on the package the light comes in, and a shortened label is
put on the light.
What this mean for you is that when you buy, ask about the
certification. Ask if the lights are labeled properly. When you get the
lights check them to see if they are labeled.
Put the correct certification label on the boat to indicate that you
certify that the light meets the rules.
The most common violation concerning navigation lights is improper
mounting of the lights. Follow the manufacturers instructions to the letter.
Makes sure the the lights are properly aligned with the centerline of the boat. Do
not mount lights below the sheer line of the boat. Lights mounted below the sheer line
cannot meet the vertical sector requirements. See note below.
Clarification: The Inland Navigation Rules do not speak to
lights mounted below the hull so they are permitted. The
International Rules do speak to lights mounted below the sheer. It says :
- The sidelights of a power-driven vessel shall be placed at a
height above the hull not greater than three quarters of that of the
forward masthead light. They shall not be so low as to be interfered
with by deck lights.
This means you cannot have the sidelights below the sheer
line of the hull on a boat configured for international rules. I
repeat, on boats configured for inland rules you can use bullseye type
lights below the sheer line, but it is extremely difficult to make them
comply with the vertical and horizontal sectors and cutoff angles.
Lights must not be obstructed by
structure of the boat or by other things on the boat. All around white lights must
be visible 360 degrees around the boat. Also there must be a one meter vertical
separation between the side lights and masthead or all around white lights. That
means the all around white light must be 1 meter (39.3 inches) higher than the sides
Also, make sure the red and green are on the correct sides. red - left
(port) and green - right (starboard). This sounds simple but I have seen it at boat
Several years ago, at a major boat show, I found over ninety violations
of navigation light regulations. It is too easy to do it wrong.
If you have questions about navigation lights call the
Coast Guard Office of Boating Safety