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Displaying Lights On Sailing Yachts and Motor Boats

Displaying Lights On Sailing Yachts and Motor Boats

Navigation lights for sports boats up to 20 metres long
Navigation lights ensure the safety of everyone at sea. IMO COLREG 72 precisely sets out the guidelines for navigation lights, i.e. displaying lights, their range (distance from which the light is visible), as well as how they should be constructed and assembled. Navigation lights must always be used on board from sunset to sunrise or during the day if visibility is poor. Our guide is of interest to sailors and sports boats enthusiasts with boats up to 20 m in length. Please refer to the German Traffic Regulations for Navigable Maritime Waterways, §8 -10 and the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, Part C - Lights and Shapes, rules 20 - 31, and annexes I 1. - 14 for the exact wording.

International Regulations for Preventing Collisions To German Traffic Regulations for Navigable Maritime Waterways

Vessels that are authorised to fly the German flag are generally only permitted to use approved navigation lights and sound-signalling devices. EU approval can be identified via the wheel mark symbol and the notified body number. BSH approved navigation lights are marked with a model number (e.g. BSH/00/01/90). A CE mark does not supersede approval according to collision prevention regulations. Older, already installed lights with DHI approval are still valid.

Caution! Cheaper navigation lights with approval from commercial classification bodies (e.g. RINA) are often available on the market. This approval in no way supersedes the international EU wheel mark. Approved navigation lights always carry the wheel mark symbol on the housing or display the model number.

Navigation lights must be securely mounted perpendicular to the waterline. Mast-head lights and stern lights should both be placed above the keel line.

The wheel mark symbol indicates approval of the Marine Equipment Directive (MED). This approval is valid for all EU member states, both for commercial vessels and for recreational shipping.

0098 = Notified Body number
(here 0098 = Germanischer Lloyd in Hamburg)
18 = Year in which the mark is affixed. Here, 2018
Basisschicht

Definitions for navigation lights according to IMO COL REG

Definitions according to the 1972 International Regulations for Prevention of Collisions at Sea (COL REG 72):

Side lights

1. Side lights for starboard and port

A green light on the starboard side and a red light on the port side, which shine from dead ahead in an arc of 112.5° aft to a point 22.5° abaft the beam (behind the beam) on either side of the vessel. On ships of less than 20 metres in length, the two individual sidelights may be replaced by a dual-colour combined light. This must be centrally located on the bow and stern axis.

Stern light

2. Stern light

A white light mounted as close to the stern as possible and shines dead ahead in an arc of 135° (67.5° to each side). The mounting height should be aligned to the height of the side lights and should never be higher.

Three-colour light

3. Three-colour light for sailing vessels (sailing lights)

On sail boats up to a length of 20 m, the side light and stern light can be combined into one three-colour light mounted on top of the mast. However, as soon as the sail boat's motor is engaged, the use of a three-colour light is no longer permitted. The rules for motor-powered vessels then apply.

Mast-head light

4. Mast-head light

A white light placed over the centre line of the vessel and shines dead ahead in an arc of 225° (from straight ahead up to 22.5° more aft than crosswise to each side). The mounting height should be at least 1 m higher than the side lights. In the past, the mast-head light was also referred to as a steam boat light or steamer light, as it is only seen on ships that operate under engine power.

Signal light or all-round light

5. Signal light or all-round light

A light that shines in a complete circle of 360°. It may emit white, red or green light, depending on application.
Examples of use: All vessels at anchor must exhibit a white anchor light, if required. Ships of over 12m in length must, if necessary, display vessel-in-distress lights (two red signal lights) placed at a vertical distance of at least 1 m. The distance between such lights must not exceed 1 m.

Minimum range of navigation lights

The range indicates the distance from which the light can be seen. The minimum ranges are defined according to ship size as follows:

Range in nautical miles (NM) Ships up to 12m in overall length Ships of 12 - 20 m overall length Ships from 20 - 50 m overall length
Mast-head light 2 NM 3 NM 5 NM
Side light (starboard /port) 1 NM 2 NM 2 NM
Stern light 2 NM 2 NM 2 NM
Three-colour light (sail boat when at sail) 2 NM 2 NM
All-round light (white, red, green all-round light) 2 NM 2 NM 2 NM

General light use:

Note: When sailing boats are powered by an engine, the rules for machine-powered vehicles apply and the tricolour light may no longer be used.

Sailing vehicles up to 20 m at sail

Sailing vehicles up to 20 m at sail

1 x red port side light

1 x green starboard light

1 x stern light

Also allowed:

1 x red all-round light on or near the mast top

1 x green all-round light on or near the mast top

Sailing vehicles up to 20 m at sail

Sailing vehicles up to 20 m at sail

1 x 3-colour light

Sailing vessels under 7 m

Sailing vessels under 7 m

If, due to their design, no lights can be displayed, sailing vessels under 7 m in length and vessels using a rudder must exhibit an electric hand-held spotlight or a powerful torch to prevent collisions in the dark.

1 x hand-held spotlight or torch

Motorised vessels over 12 m

Motorised vessels over 12 m

Lights exhibited must be either / or:

1 x white masthead light fore

1 x red port side light

1 x green starboard light

1 x stern light

Motorised vessels over 12 m

Motorised vessels over 12 m

Lights exhibited must be either / or:

1 x white masthead light fore

1 x dual colour light

1 x stern light

Motorised vessels under 12 m

Motorised vessels under 12 m

Alternatively, motorised vessels under 12 m can exhibit the following lights:

1 x white all-round light

1 x red port side light

1 x green starboard light

Motorised vessels under 12 m

Motorised vessels under 12 m

Alternatively, motorised vessels under 12 m can exhibit the following lights:

1 x white all-round light

1 x dual colour light

Motorised vessels under 7 m and 7 knots maximum speed

Motorised vessels under 7 m and 7 knots maximum speed

Motorised vehicles under 7 metres and with a maximum speed of no more than 7 knots can display the following navigation lights: all-round lights, portside and starboard lights.

The following applies in accordance with German Traffic Regulations for Navigable Maritime Waterways (SeeSchStrO): If, due to their design, no lights can be displayed (e.g. dinghies), sailing vessels under 7 m in length and 7 knots maximum speed must exhibit an electric hand-held spotlight or a torch to prevent collisions in the dark.

Left: 1 x white all-round light, 1 x red port side light, 1 x green starboard light

Right: 1 x spot light or torch

Vessels under sail or at rudder that are equipped with a motor

Vessels under sail or at rudder that are equipped with a motor

Provided no engine power is used, the rules for sailboats apply. Motor-sailing vessels must display a large black cone pointing downwards when sailing during the day or at good light.

For vessels travelling under sail or at rudder during darkness or by reduced visibility, the rules for carrying lights for motorised boats automatically apply.

By day with a black cone, tip pointing downwards.
Vessels at anchor

Vessels at anchor

At anchor during daylight? This must be displayed with a black anchor ball (which seems to have been forgotten here).

If the vessel is anchored outside of an area of water known by the River and Shipping Police Authority as an anchorage and berth for small vessels, this must be indicated as follows:

A black ball by day, 1 x white all-round light at night
Vessels at anchor
Disabled Vessels

Disabled Vessels

If your boat is disabled, this should be indicated as follows:

Stationary: 2 x red all-round light, 2 x black ball, one below the other (during the day)

Moving: 1 x red port side light, 1 x green starboard light, 1 x white stern light

Vessels that have run aground

Vessels that have run aground

If your boat has run aground, this should be indicated as follows:

2 x red all-round light, 1 x white all-round light, 3 x black ball, one below the other (during the day)

Navigation lights - conventional and LED

Manufacturers that specialise in navigation lights such as Aqua Signal or Hella Marine supply a wide range of internationally approved navigation lights which work with conventional (with BSH bulb) or with permanently installed, light-emitting semiconductor components (LEDs).´The bulbs required for operation are an integral part of the approval. Replacement bulbs must also be BSH certified so that approval / your insurance protection is guaranteed. Ships under 20 m: Stern and anchor lights require BSH-approved light bulbs with 10 watts, all other lights 25 watts.

Spare light bulb for series Stern l / Anchor l. 12 V/10W Stb./BB, Masth / All-rnd l. 12 V / 25W
Aqua Signal, Series 40 SVB No. 10203 SVB No. 10206
Aqua Signal, Series 41 SVB No. 10203 SVB No. 10206
Aqua Signal, Series 50 SVB No. 10203 SVB No. 10206
Hella Marine, Series 2984 SVB No. 10203 SVB No. 10206

All series listed above with BAY15d sockets could alternatively be operated with a high-power LED. The big advantage in doing so is that the LED is suitable for multiple voltages (10-30 V) and consumes just 3 watts during operation. Since the light colour, range of light or beam angle can vary depending on the housing, this light is NOT yet internationally approved.

Navigation lights with LED technology

Energy consumption on sailing ships is, as ever, a topic of significant interest. This is especially true for blue-water sailors that do not travel from port to port. The arguments in favour of switching to LED technology speak for themselves:

  • High energy savings due to the low power consumption
  • Long lifespan (over 10,000 hours)
  • MultivoltTM technology (10-30V) with greater tolerance to voltage peaks
  • Compact and light housing constructions
  • Waterproofed, hermetically sealed housings
  • Maintenance free

When switching completely from conventional navigation lights to LED lights, you can be sure that lights with the BSH seal of approval / EU wheel mark meet all the requirements in terms of light colour (no risk of blue tint), range of light and beam angle, and that you are travelling in accordance with KVR.

Simple to switch from light bulbs to LED lights

Replacing your navigation lights is easy because most manufacturers use the same mounting points for the new LED lights or have an adapter plate available for further use of existing drill holes:

Existing Series: New LED Series:
Aqua Signal, Series 40 with quicfitssocket Series 34 with quicfitssocket
Aqua Signal, Series 41 Series 43 (use identical drill holes)
Aqua Signal, Series 40 and 50 Serie 43 using adapter plate, SVB no. 14557
Aqua Signal, Series 40 and 50 Series 44 using adapter plate, SVB no. 14557

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