Lights and Shapes

This section goes over what lights and shapes must be displayed by vessels when they are underway. (When they are not made fast to the shore, aground, or at anchor.) Also it’s important to know that each example is based off a vessel under 50 meters unless specified. If a vessel is over 50 meters, it must show an additional masthead light among the rest of the lights outlined in each rule.

Rule #20: Lights and Shapes: Application

Lights are to be turned on from sunset to sunrise, in/near restricted visibility or whenever deemed necessary. Day shapes on the other hand apply during the day.

There is no Canadian Modification to this rule.

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Rule #21: Lights and Some Definitions

Definitions from the International Rule:

  • Masthead light: white light, on the centerline of the vessel showing from right ahead to 22.5 degrees abaft the beam on either side of the vessel.
  • Sidelights: green on starboard side, red on port side, each showing from right ahead to 22.5 degrees abaft the beam on their respective side. (If the vessel is under 20 metres long sidelights may be combined in 1 fixture on the centerline of the vessel.)
  • Stern Light: white light, where practicable on stern showing 67.5 degrees from right aft on each side of the vessel.
  • Towing Light: yellow, placed where practicable on the stern, showing 67.5 degrees from right after on each side of the vessel.
  • All-round light: a light visible from 360 degrees of the horizon.
  • Flashing light: flashing faster than 120 flashers/minute.
  • Long Tow: tow length of more than 200m.

Canadian Modification:

  • Special Flashing Light: a yellow light flashing with a frequency of about 50-70 flashes/minute, placed in the foremost part of both the fore and aft part of the vessel, on the centreline, visible from 180-225 degrees, showing from right ahead to abeam, and not more then 22.5 degrees abaft the beam on either side of the vessel.
  • Blue Flashing Light: a blue all-round light flashing with a frequency of about 50-70 flashes/minute.

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Rule #22: Visibility of Lights:

International Rule:

  • If your vessel is over 50 meters your masthead light must be visible for 6nm, your sidelights for 3nm, your towing light for 3nm, and your all-round light must be visible for 3nm. 
  • If your vessel is 20 to 50 meters your masthead light must be visible for 3nm, your sidelights for 2nm, your towing light for 2nm, and your all-round light must be visible for 1nm.
  • If your vessel is 12-20 meters your masthead light must be visible for 3nm, your sidelights for 2nm, your towing light for 2nm and your all-round light must be visible for 2nm.
  • If your vessel is under 12 meters your masthead light must be visible for 3nm, your sidelights for 2nm, your towing light for 2nm, and your all-round light must be visible for 2nm.

Canadian Modification:

If a vessel must exhibit a special or blue flashing light it’s visibility must be 2nm.

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Rule #23: Lights and Shapes for Power Driven Vessel

International Rule:

If your vessel is under 50 meters you need to display a masthead, sidelights and a stern light. Alternatively if your vessel is over 50 meters you must display 1 additional masthead light.

If your vessel is less then 12 meters in length and cannot exceed 7 knots, you may display a white all-round light in lieu of displaying a masthead light. This vessel may also combine all of their lights, and places them as close as practical to the fore and aft centreline of the vessel.

The day shape for a power driven vessel is 1 cone pointing down and it is optional for vessels under 12 meters to display one.

Canadian Modifications:

The rule that applies to vessels under 12 meters does not apply to a Canadian power-driven vessel in other waters, or a non-Canadian power-driven vessel operating in Canadian roadsteads, harbours, rivers, lakes or any other inland waterways.

 

In the Great Lakes, a power-driven vessel when underway that is over 50 meters or chooses to display a second masthead light, may display an all-round light in it’s place, or two lights that when in combination act as an all-round light.

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Rule #24: Lights and Shapes for a Vessel Engaged in Towing

International Rule: For Vessels Engaged In Towing:

For Vessels over 50 meters:

  • With a tow under 200 meters must display a towing light, stern light, 3 masthead lights, 2 of which must be in a vertical line, and sidelights.
  • With a tow over 200 meters must display a towing light, stern light, 4 mast head lights, 3 of which must be in a vertical line, and sidelights.

For Vessels under 50 meters:

  • With a tow under 200 meters must display a towing light, stern light, 2 masthead lights in a vertical line, and sidelights.
  • With a tow over 200 meters must display a towing light, stern light, 3 masthead lights in a vertical light, and sidelights.

If the vessel is towing a particularly larger object/vessel, or  a something that is partly submerged or low in the water such as a log boom, white lights will be placed on the towed object.

When the object is less than 25 meters in breadth, two all-around white lights must be display, one fore and one aft on the object.


If it is wider then 25 meters two more all-round white lights will be placed on abeam each other to display the objects width.

When an object is over 100 meters in length all-round white lights will be placed in-between the fore and aft lights all-round white lights, the distance between each light cannot exceed 100 meters.

If a vessel cannot display these lights, or the vessel does not normal engage in towing, they must use all lights available to alert vessels of the towed object, for example shining a searchlight on the towline.

The day shape for a vessel that is towing/under tow or pushing is a diamond on each vessel/object.

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Rule #24: Engaged in Towing: Canadian Modifications

If it’s impractical for a barge being towed to comply to displaying white all-round lights in Canadian waters of roadstead, harbour, river, lake, or any other inland waterway, must display at minimum one all-round white light at each end.

In the case of groups of barges being towed together they must display one all-round white light at each end, and add additional lights to make sure the lights are not father apart then 100 meters. They must also display an all-round white light located as close as practical to the mid-point of the group.

Within Canadian waters of a roadstead, harbour, river, lake or any other inland waterway, if a log tow cannot comply with Rule 24, they must:

  • Display 1 all-round white light at each end if the log tow is less then 25 meters in breadth. If the tow is longer then 100 meters is must display an all-round light at the mid-point of the length.
  • If the tow is wider then 25 meters it must display one all-round white light in each corner of the tow. If the tow is longer 100 meters is must display an all-round white light on each side at it’s mid-point of length.

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Rule #24: Lights and Shapes for Vessels Engaged in Pushing

International Rule:

Vessels that engaged in pushing, and is rigidly connected to the other, they are consider a composite unit, and regarded as a power-driven vessel.

If the vessels are not rigidly connected the pushing vessel must exhibit 2 masthead lights in a vertical line, sidelights and a stern light. Vessels that are being pushing must exhibit sidelights.

If the vessel is towing/pushing a particularly larger object/vessel, or  a something that is partly submerged or low in the water such as a log boom, white lights will be placed on the towed object.

When the object is less than 25 meters in breadth, two all-around white lights must be display, one fore and one aft on the object.If it is wider then 25 meters two more all-round white lights will be placed on abeam each other to display the objects width.

When an object is over 100 meters in length all-round white lights will be placed in-between the fore and aft lights all-round white lights, the distance between each light cannot exceed 100 meters.

Canadian Modifications:

In the Great Lakes, a power-driven vessel engaged in towing or pushing ahead may display two towing lights may be displayed in a vertical line in lieu of a stern light. A special flashing light must be visible at the forward end of the vessel being pushed ahead in addition to other lights used to indicate a vessel engaged in pushing.

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Rule #25: Lights and Shapes for a Sailing Vessel

International Rule:

When a sailing vessel is underway they must display a stern light and sidelights or an additional 2 masthead lights if they are under sail.(1 red over 1 green.) If the sailing vessel is under 20 meters, the stern and sidelights may be combined and displayed where it can be seen easily usually near the top of the mast. If a vessel is under 7 meters they are not required to show navigation lights but must have a white light onboard to signal their location at all times.

If a sailing vessel is motor-sailing they must display the lights of a power driven vessel, or a day shape resembling 1 cone point down.

Canadian Modifications:

In a roadstead, harbour, river, lake or any other Canadian inland waterway, if your sailing-vessel is less than 12 meters in length,  and is motor-sailing, they are not required to display the day shape of a cone pointing downward, but they can if they want.

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Rule #26: Vessel Engaged in Fishing

When a vessel is engaged in fishing, as defined in Section 1: General Information and Definitions, they must display a stern light, masthead light(s), sidelights and 2 all-round lights. (Red over white.)

The day shape for a vessel engaged in fishing is are 2 cones pointed at each other.

There is no Canadian Modification for this rule.

Trick to remember: “Red over white, Fishing at night.”

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Rule #26: Vessel Engaged in Fishing: Purse Seining

If the vessel is hampered by purse seine gear they must display a stern light, sidelights and 4 all around lights. The lights are a red over white, and 2 yellow lights in a vertical line, flashing at alternate intervals.

Their day shape is the same as a vessel engaged in fishing, 2 cones pointing at each other.

There is no Canadian Modification for this rule.

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Rule #26: Vessels Engaged In Trawling

When a vessel is actively engaged in trawling they must display a stern light, sidelights and 2 all-round lights. (Green over white.) If they are shooting nets they must display 2 additional all-round lights, both of them must be white and located underneath the green all-around light.

If the vessel is hauling nets is must display a stern light, sidelights and 4 all-round lights, a green over 2 white lights and a red. If they have nets caught on the bottom they will display 2 red all-round lights on the side that is obstructed.A vessel engaged in trawling must display the day shape, of two cones pointing towards each other.

There is no Canadian Modification for this rule.

Trick to Remember: “Green over white, Trawling at night.”

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Rule #27: Vessels Restricted in Their Ability to Maneuver

A vessel that is restricted in their ability to maneuver will display a white masthead light, sidelights, stern light and 3 all-round lights in a vertical line. ( Red over white over red.)

The day shapes that this type of vessel must display is 3 shapes, a ball, diamond, and another ball underneath.

There is no Canadian Modification for this rule.

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Rule #27: Vessel Restricted in Their Ability to Maneuver and Towing

You should assume anyways that a vessel that is engaged towing is restricted in their ability to maneuver because of the nature of towing. Vessels that are restricted in their ability to maneuver and engaged in towing with a tow under 200 meters will display a towing light, sidelights, 2 masthead lights, and 3 all-round lights. ( Red over white over red.)  If the length of tow is over 200 meters they will display 3 masthead lights instead on 2.During the day this vessel must display 3 day shapes, the same as a vessel restricted in their ability to maneuver, a ball over a diamond over a ball.

There is no Canadian Modification for this rule.


To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Rule #27: Vessels Conducting Underwater Operations Where an Obstruction Exists.

If a vessel is conduction underwater operations where there is an obstruction on one side they will display a stern light, sidelights, 2 sets of all-round lights, 1 set red and 1 set green, the side that is obstructed will be displaying the red set, a masthead light and 3 additional all-round lights placed centre ship, red over white over red.

If they are operating during the day they must display 2 balls over the open side and 2 diamonds over the obstructed side.

There is no Canadian Modification for this rule.

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Rule #27: Vessels Not Under Command

Vessels that are not under command and therefore cannot change course must display a stern light, sidelights, a masthead light and 2 all-round red lights. During the day they must display 2 balls. This could include a sailing vessel with no other means of propulsion other then the wind, dead in the water, and therefore cannot make way.

There is no Canadian Modification for this rule.

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Rule #27: Minesweeper Vessel

A vessel engaged in mine clearance must display a stern light, sidelights and a masthead light, and 3 green all-round lights, or 3 black balls. When you see these lights or shapes it means it is dangerous to come within 1000 meters of this vessel.

There is no Canadian Modification for this rule.

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Rule #27: Diving Operations

If a vessel is in the middle of a diving operation they will display 3 all-round lights, red over white over red, and no navigational lights because they are not underway or making way. During the day they will display diving flags.

There is no Canadian Modification for this rule.

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Rule #28: Vessel Constrained By Her Draught/Draft

International Rule:

If a vessel is constrained by their draft they must display a stern light, 2 masthead lights, sidelights and 3 red all-round lights in a vertical line. During the day they must display a cylinder.

Canadian Modification:

In inland Canadian waterways including harbours, roadsteads, rivers, and lakes, no vessel can exhibit 3 all-round red lights in a vertical line, or a cylinder.

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Rule #29: Pilot Vessels

A on-duty pilot vessel will display a stern light, 2 all-round lights (white over red), and side lights. 

There is no Canadian modification to this rule.

A trick to remember: “White over red, Pilot ahead!”

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Rule #30: Vessels at Anchor or Aground

International Rules:

Vessels at anchor must display a white all-round light, two if they are over 50 meters, or a black ball during the day.

A vessel that has run aground must display 3 all-round lights, 1 white, and 2 reds in a vertical line. If they are over 50 meters that must display an additional white masthead light to signify that. During the day they must display 3 black balls in a vertical line.

Canadian Modifications:

In Canadian inland waterways, anchored or aground barges, and inconspicuous or partly submerged vessels or objects must light themselves according to the Canadian Modifications in Rule 24. These types of vessels or objects don’t have to exhibit these lights if there are within a recognized mooring/storage or booming area that is not near, or in a narrow channel, fairway or where any other vessels normally navigate.




To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Rule #31: Seaplanes

Seaplanes or WIG’s must display a white light, and sidelights on each wingtip. When a Seaplane or a WIG is taking off them may in addition to navigation lights, display an high intensity all-round red flashing light.

There is no Canadian modification for this rule.

WIG is an acronym for Wing-In-Ground Craft

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Rule #31: Special Lights

A hovercraft in non-displacement mode will display a masthead light, sidelights, stern light and a flashing yellow all-round light.(Lights will be flashing around 50-70 flashes/minute.)

A hydrofoil ferry, or a high speed catamaran ferry will also exhibit an flashing yellow all-round light as well as the normal power driven vessel lights. (Lights will be flashing around 50-70 flashes/minute.)

A government vessel on mission will display 2 flashing blue all-round lights. (Lights will be flashing around 50-70 flashes/minute.)

There is no Canadian modification for this rule.

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

All done this section!

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

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