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Navigation lights

Image of navigation lights

Navigation lights must be shown on ships operating:

  • between sunset and sunrise
  • in restricted visibility.

Navigation lights indicate:

  • the size of the ship
  • the angle where you see them
  • the direction the ship is travelling
  • if the ship is anchored.

Navigation lights should be fitted by the manufacturer or an authorised person. Smaller ships have a number of options including bracketed or combination suction-capped lights. These types of navigation lights are available from marine dealers.

Minimum required lights

Sailboats underway

  • Sailboats less than 7m and vessels under oars must have a torch or lantern showing a white light ready to display in time to prevent a collision.
  • Sailboats less than 20m in length may combine sidelights and stern lights in a single lantern carried at the top of the mast.
  • Sailboats 7m or more in length must show sidelights and stern lights. In addition to sidelights they may show two all-round lights in a vertical line (red over green) that may be shown at the top of the mast, but not when a combined lantern is used.

Powered boats underway

  • Powered boats less than 7m in length and whose speed does not exceed 7 knots, may show an all-round white light instead of sidelights. If practical, these ships should also show sidelights.
  • Powered boats must show sidelights and either an all-round white light or a stern and masthead light. Sailboats under engine power are considered to be powered boats, and must show the same lights as a powered boat. Personal watercraft are also powered boats.

Boats moored at anchor

  • All ships at anchor must show an all-round white light.

Sport rowing ships

  • Ships engaged in rowing activities (training or competition) on the Brisbane River now need to display an all-round white flashing light if they are on the water before sunrise or after sunset.

Commercial ship recognition

Daymarks and navigation lights show the activities of larger ships and many commercial and fishing ships. The following examples describe common day shapes and navigation lights. Standard navigation lights (for example port, starboard and anchor) must be shown as well as the lights used to signal particular activities.

ActivityDaymarkLights

Ships at anchor

  • one black ball when the ship is less than 50 m in length
  • Commercial ships fishing (other than trawling) should show lights red over white when fishing at night.
  • Commercial ships trawling should show lights green over white when engaged in trawling at night.

All ships should keep well clear of fishing ships.

Ships restricted in their ability to manoeuvre
These signals are used by ships engaged in activities such as servicing navigation marks, towing, underwater operations or cable laying.

  • black ball over black diamond over black ball

Ships restricted in their ability to manoeuvre should show lights red over white over red.
When these ships are making way they should also show their normal navigation lights.

Ships engaged in underwater operations or dredging
Ships engaged in activities such as underwater operations or dredging must indicate that they are restricted in their ability to manoeuvre. If there is an obstruction on one side of the ship (such as in dredging) signals must also indicate this.

  • black ball over black diamond over black ball (to indicate restricted manoeuvrability)

plus

  • black diamond over black diamond on the side where it is safe to pass

and

  • black ball over black ball on the side where there is an obstruction

Ships engaged in diving operations should also display a rigid code flag 'A' in an area easily visible to others.

  • red over white over red indicating restricted manoeuvrability

plus

  • green over green on the side where it is safe to pass

and

  • red over red on the side where there is an obstruction

Ships aground
These signals do not indicate distress or a need for help.

  • black ball over black ball over black ball
  • red light over red light

Ships not under command
These signals indicate inability to manoeuvre when it is not caused by the activity of the ship (for example towing).

  • black ball over black ball
  • red light over red light

Pilot vessel on duty

  • code flag 'H' should be placed in area easily visible to others
  • white light over red light

Quick safety tips

  • It is essential for you to see other boats and have them see you.
  • It is difficult to judge distances at night.
  • Not all navigation hazards will have lights showing their position at night.
  • Background lighting from the shore can cause confusion.
  • Slow down and keep a good lookout.
Last updated
29 July 2014