Requirements for dockside lighting will vary by State and local jurisdiction and, whichever is the most stringent, is the regulation you must follow.

Boat lighting requirements are under the control of the U.S. Coast Guard. Recent changes to the Inland Navigation Rules make U.S. regulations nearly identical to the International Rules.

Dockside Lighting

The intent of all jurisdictions is for docksides to be lit from sunset to sunrise or whenever conditions restrict visibility. Logically, these requirements are in place to avoid collisions between a boat and a dock and for the safety of people when a dock is used as a gathering place or for entertainment.

Dockside lighting will guide passing and incoming boats, and the lighting should begin at a reasonable distance from the water’s edge so as not to be confused with the shoreline.

General Dockside Lighting Guidelines

Colored lights should be kept to a minimum as they can be difficult to see in certain conditions. It is recommended to light a dock as a footpath to benefit both boaters and those on the dock at night. Swimming platforms, boathouses, hoists, or anything protruding from the dock should also be well lit.

Underwater Lighting Installations

Bollards are the preference for commercial boat dock lighting. These fixtures are mounted on pillars at 24”-36” from the dock’s surface to make for safe boat entry and disembarkment. In most jurisdictions, overhead wiring on docks is prohibited; therefore, most lights are solar powered, or an alternative power source must be installed in accordance with local codes.

Boat Lighting Requirements

In addition to the Inland Navigation Rules, all boat owners are responsible for knowing and complying with any additional requirements specific to State or Local jurisdictions where a boat is registered or operated. Unlike dockside lighting, there is no room for personal taste in boat lighting requirements.

Navigation Lights

All boats must display navigation lights between sunset and sunrise and during periods of restricted visibility. Navigation lights are to give a source and points of reference of a boat’s position, heading and status for other boats under power at night, and are not used for lighting the craft for the benefit of passengers.

It is imperative for boat owners to know the function and positions of navigation lights to avoid collisions and to determine the type and the relative angle of other vessels.

Rules, Types and Functions of Navigation Lights

Below are the four internationally-known navigation lights:

1. The sidelights: red (port/left) and green (starboard/right), must shine from dead ahead to 112.5° aft (at or near the back) on either side. For boats under 65’7”, the sidelights may be a combined, single bi-color light mounted at the bow.
2. The stern (back) lights are white and shine aft at 67.5° forward on each side.

The above two requirements create a full circle of light around the boat.

3. All-round lights are white and shine through 360°.
4. Masthead lights are white, must be above the sidelights, and must shine from 112.5° on the starboard and port sides through dead ahead.

For boats requiring two all-round lights at anchor, the light at the bow must be higher than the stern light.

Sailing Vessels

When sail boats are under power, they are considered power-driven boats. The types and functions of navigation lights are the same for sailboats, but some of the requirements differ. For sailboats under 65’7”, the all-round light is mounted at the mast top. Allowed variations of the sidelights are:

1. The sidelights may be a single, bi-colored light mounted at the mast top; or
2. A single, tri-color light; white facing aft, red facing port and green facing starboard, mounted at the mast top.

Sailing vessels and all boats under 23’ must have an electric torch or lantern available in substitution for navigation lights.

The professionals at Imagine Marine will lend their knowledge and services to your boat lighting questions and your dock lighting installation needs.

Imagine Marine offers free consultations and stands ready to help with all your boating needs.