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
boats that do not have correctly installed navigation lights. Also, if
you do install navigation lights 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 nautical
The entire labeling requirement is found in
Title 33 Code of Federal Regulations Subopart 183.810.
The label says:
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
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
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. Make 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: As of Jul 2014
the Inland Navigation Rules have been amended to read the same as the
International rules. The International Rules do not allow lights to
be 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 OR inland rules. I repeat, on boats configured for
inland rules you cannot use bullseye type lights below the sheer line.
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 lights.
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 shows.
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
Coast Guard Office
of Boating Safety
Revised 04/23/2015 Copyright 2006