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Legal Status of Blue Accent Lighting and Non-compliant Navigation Lights Raises Concerns

Thursday, February 8, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Mickaela Giese
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Boat owners increasingly request the installation of after-market or OEM-installed decorative lights on their vessels as accents on rub railings, for underwater illumination and other non-navigational locations. Many of these accents are blue or emit a range of colors including blue. State law enforcement agencies in several states are now enforcing laws which expressly prohibit the use of blue lights when underway. These laws were written primarily to prevent other mariners from confusing a recreational boat with law enforcement or other emergency vessels. In particular, law enforcement officials are concerned that rub railing and underwater illumination could be mistaken for flashing blue lights under rough sea conditions. The placement and intensity of accent lights that interfere with the display of navigation lights, regardless of color, may also violate USCG Rule 20.

In addition, USCG regulations and industry standards require navigational lighting aboard vessels to adhere to ABYC standard A-16 in accordance with specifications within 33 CFR 183.810 and 46 CFR 25.10-3. Safety Alert 10-15 issued Nov. 4, 2015 by the USCG Inspections and Compliance Directorate expressed concern that aftermarket manufacturers are producing and distributing navigational lights that have not been approved as required in 33 CFR 183.810. 

While some states have adopted USCG lighting standards that authorize only the use of white, red and green navigation lights while underway, some states have specific statutes prohibiting blue lights.  For example, Arizona RS 5-333(f) states: “No watercraft may display a blue light of any size or type unless it is either an authorized law enforcement watercraft of the federal, state or local government actually engaged in enforcement of this chapter or an emergency watercraft.” Wisconsin also bans the use of blue accent lights while at anchor or underway: NR 5.17 (2) states: No vessel may be equipped with or display any blue colored light or lamp unless the vessel is a patrol boat.”

MRAA stresses the importance of educating boaters of the use of blue accent lighting at anchor and while underway may be illegal and to check their local laws.

For more information regarding blue accent lighting, please contact MRAA Public Policy Manager, Will Higgins

8401 73rd Avenue North, Suite 71, Minneapolis, MN 55428