Bulletin No.: 03/1996

Date (Y-M-D): 1996-02-26

Subject: Small Vessels - Navigation Lights

A recent investigation by the Transportation Safety Board into a collision between a small fishing vessel and a larger vessel revealed that the display of non-approved, or "homemade", navigation lights may have been a contributory cause of the accident, in which several lives were lost.

This Ship Safety Bulletin, therefore, serves to remind builders, owners and operators of small vessels which are not subject to periodic Transport Canada inspection that their vessels must, nonetheless, comply with the Collision Regulations with respect to the proper carriage, display and technical details of navigation lights.

The operators of small vessels, whether fishing vessels, small commercial vessels, or pleasure craft, which fail to display the correct navigation lights, both in type and detail, may be placing themselves and all those on board at considerable risk. Because of the incorrect placement, screening or non-approved type of navigation lights, approaching vessels may not be able to ascertain the heading or course of a small vessel in sufficient time to take appropriate action to avoid collision. Small craft are often difficult to see from the bridge of a large vessel, particularly in heavy weather, and if incorrect navigation lights are being displayed, the problems of collision avoidance may be compounded. Navigation lights even though they may be correctly fitted, can become extinguished and can therefore cause similar problems. Operators should therefore continually verify that their lights are burning and are visible to approaching vessels.

It should also be emphasized that the display of "head-light" type docking lights when the vessel is underway is a contravention of Rule 20 of the Collision Regulations. These lights can interfere with the crew's ability to maintain a proper lookout and can impair the visibility and identification of the vessel's navigation lights. They may be of assistance in docking and undocking in darkness but should be switched off, and kept off, once the vessel is clear of the berth.

Rules 20 to 31 of the Collision Regulations specify the navigation lights to be displayed by all classes of vessels in Canadian and international waters, while Annex 1 to the Regulations provides the positioning and technical details of those lights. The lights required by these rules are well established and understood by knowledgeable mariners.

Builders, owners or operators who are unclear as to the navigation light requirements of their particular vessel (s) should contact the nearest Transport Canada Ship Safety office.

Keywords:                                  Questions concerning this bulletin should be addressed to:

1. Small vessels
2. Navigation lights
3. Collision avoidance
Dave Jenkins
Transport Canada
Marine Safety
Tower C, Place de Ville
11th Floor, 330 Sparks Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0N8

To add or change your address, contact us at: marinesafety@tc.gc.ca

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