The United States Coast Guard released an official Marine Safety Alert warning boaters about the unapproved recreational and commercial navigation lights. In addition, the use of decorative lighting such as rope lighting, underwater lighting and others may violate the Nautical Rules of the Road and pose a major safety hazard.
The USCG has seen an increase in manufacturers selling cheaper versions of LED lights that do not meet the proper specifications for brightness. While uninformed consumers are attracted to the lower price, they often don't realize the potential danger of these lights. When purchasing lights for vessel navigation, boaters need to look for the following:
- 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.
In addition, decorative lights are also going to be under more scrutiny. For example, blue underwater LED lights that flash and blink because of water turbulence behind a boat could be confused with law-enforcement lights and lead to a violation of vessel lighting regulations. In addition, the USCG recommends that decorative lighting:
- 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 circumstances may represent a violation of Rule 20.
For more information about vessel navigational lighting regulations, please see USCG Marine Safety Alert 10-15.