This sixth edition has been developed over the past four years — , and represents a continuing commitment to excellence and clarity of presentation. A key change from the version is the focus on e-navigation in recognition of the extensive conceptual work done to date, the central role e-navigation is expected to play in the future work program of IALA and its impact on the way Competent Authorities provide an aids to navigation service to mariners in the longer term. This NAVGUIDE is a tribute to professionals already very busy in their own organisations worldwide, who are happy to share their expertise with other members of the international maritime community to assist in reaching the ultimate goal of harmonization of maritime aids to navigation. IALA welcomes feedback about its publications. Readers are invited to send comments or suggestions, which will be taken into account when considering the publication of the next edition. Please forward comments to: iala-aism wanadoo.
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Navigation—buoys, marks and beacons Navigation—buoys, marks and beacons Traffic lights and signs guide drivers on the roads. Buoys and beacons and navigation lights do the same on the water. Each type of mark has its own colour, shape, top mark and light combination. To navigate safely, you need to know each mark and its meaning. Lateral marks Lateral marks show the port left and starboard right sides of navigable waters or channels. A port mark is red with a can-like shape.
A starboard mark is green with a cone-like shape. When a port and starboard lateral mark are opposite each other, travel between them. Sometimes they are not in pairs though. When there is a single lateral mark, the safe side to pass depends on the direction of travel or buoyage.
The direction of buoyage is shown on charts by the symbol: When travelling upstream or away from the sea: keep port red marks on your port-hand side left keep starboard green marks on your starboard-hand side right. When travelling downstream or towards the sea: keep port red marks on your starboard-hand side right keep starboard green marks on your port-hand side left. Cardinal mark features Cardinal marks show where the deepest and safest water is by using a compass. They can mark: where to find the deepest water in an area the safe side to pass a danger a feature in a channel for example, a bend, junction or the end of a shoal.
Cardinal marks have black and yellow bands with black double cones on top showing the different compass direction that identifies the safest and deepest water to travel in. At night, each type of cardinal mark has a flashing white light with different groupings of flashes continuous, or groups of 3, 6 or 9.
To remember each type, think of a compass face with the numbers of a clock marked on it beside each direction North, East, South and West. North cardinal mark North cardinal marks show there is safe water to the North of the mark. The top cones point up or North. At night, the white light flashes quickly or very quickly and continuously. East cardinal marks show there is safe water to the East of the mark.
The top cones are in the shape of an egg. At night, the white light flashes quickly or very quickly 3 times every 5 or 10 seconds. South cardinal mark South cardinal marks show there is safe water to the South of the mark. The top cones point down or South. At night, the white light flashes quickly or very quickly 6 times followed by a long flash every 10 or 15 seconds. West cardinal marks show there is safe water to the West of the mark.
The top cones make the shape of a wine glass. At night, the white light flashes quickly or very 10 or 15 seconds. Isolated danger marks are black with 1 or more red horizontal bands and 2 spheres as the top mark. At night, the white light flashes in groups of 2.
To remember isolated danger marks, think of 2 flashes of light with 2 spheres as the top marks. Safe water marks Safe water marks show that there is navigable water all around the mark. For example, fairway, mid-channel or landfall mark. Safe water marks have red and white vertical stripes with a single red sphere as the top mark. At night, a single white light shows 1 long flash every 10 seconds. To remember safe water marks, think of 1 light with 1 long flash and 1 sphere for the top mark.
Special mark features Special marks show a special area or feature. For example, to show that a channel divides or to mark cables or pipelines.
They can also mark a channel within a channel. For example, a channel for deep draught ships in a wide river or bay where the limits of the channel for normal navigation are marked by red and green lateral buoys or beacons. The direction to travel around a special mark is usually referred to or shown on charts. Special marks are yellow and sometimes have a yellow X as the top mark. At night, the flashing light is yellow. Emergency wreck marking buoy Emergency wreck marking buoys are used to identify new dangers or wrecks.
They have blue and yellow vertical stripes and are a pillar or spar shape with a yellow cross as the top mark. At night, the flashing light alternates between 1 second of blue light and 1 second of yellow light, with 0.
There are some other aids to navigation that you need to be aware of. The front lead has its apex pointing up and the rear or back lead has its apex pointing down. When the leads are in line, you are travelling in the middle of the channel. Where leads are used to mark the middle of larger shipping channels small vessels should travel on the starboard side of the channel to keep clear of large ships. This is especially important at night.
Fixed white day lights are sometimes used to mark the leads. At night, major leads are usually lit with blue lights. Blue middle channel mark Blue middle channel marks are fixed blue lights that mark the middle of the channel for vessels passing under a bridge. On a chart, they are normally shown as a star with a flash symbol. Directional and sector lights Directional and sector lights have a similar purpose to leading lights at channel entrances and inshore waters.
Directional lights can be used as steering marks and sector lights display a light of different colours usually green, white and red. Vessels must not enter or depart the port or harbour area when the port traffic signal lights are flashing. Further information Buoys, marks and beacons factsheet PDF, 2. Last updated.
Navigation—buoys, marks and beacons
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