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Navigation lights


Navigation lights allow the position, size and type of a vessel to be identified at night and in poor visibility conditions, even at greater distances, thus ensuring safe navigation and helping to avoid collisions.

Vessels are only allowed to carry navigation lights whose design and installation meets the requirements of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREG).

Requirements according to COLREG

The type approval procedure includes the following tests:

  • whether a navigation light has a sufficient range of visibility, i.e. whether the light is visible at a distance large enough to ensure safe navigation in compliance with the Steering and Sailing Rules;
  • whether a navigation light on board a sailing yacht has the required range of visibility at different angles of inclination;
  • whether a navigation light has the right colour, to ensure that mariners on board other vessels do not confuse it with other lights, which may lead to navigation errors;
  • whether the requirements for sector angles are met.

By amendment to the German Traffic Regulations for Navigable Maritime Waterways of 11 March 2009 (Federal Law Gazette, p. 507), the range of visibility of side lights on vessels of less than 12 metres in length has been reduced from 2 nm to 1 nm in accordance with European regulations implementing the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.

Approval mark

Approved navigation lights carry a type approval number (e.g. BSH/00/01/90) and/or a wheelmark.
EU-certified navigation lights, which have been required on board commercial ships since April 2010 („wheelmark“, see Marine Equipment Directive), may also be used on board small craft.

A CE mark is never equivalent to a type test!

In the following table the required type approval in relation to the type of the vessel (community ship or recreational craft) and the waterway (inland or seagoing) are listed.

Seagoing vessels

Vessels on inland waterways



BinnenSchStrO, RheinSchPV,
DonauSchPV, MoselSchPV u.s.w

Community ship

MED wheelmark approval (2)

MED wheelmark approval (1)

Recreational craft

MED wheelmark approval
National BSH- approval
National EU- member state- approval

MED wheelmark approval (1)

(1) Right of continuance for still installed navigation lights with "anchor approval"
(2) No right of continuance for navigation lights with "BSH- approval"

Navigation lights approved by Deutsches Hydrographisches Institut (DHI), which carry DHI type approval numbers (e.g. DHI/00/01/76), are also allowed to be used.

Recognition of EU approvals

Products from other Member States of European Union are considered equivalent if they guarantee the same level of protection in terms of safety, health, and usability on a permanent basis. (Refer to Regulation EC No. 764/2008 on the mutual recognition of approvals)

National certificates for equipment meeting COLREG requirements, issued for example by the UK or an organisation authorised by the UK (not identical with certified classification societies), are accepted by the BSH as being equivalent.

Users of such equipment should carry the approval documents on board in case they have to be presented during an inspection. Nevertheless, navigational equipment failing to meet COLREG requirements will not be accepted even if valid certificates are presented.

To avoid confusion among users and executive bodies, manufacturers may apply to the BSH for recognition of EU certificates. To obtain a recognition for a foreign certificate, they have to submit an application enclosing the existing certificate and any test reports available.

Products that have been officially recognised by the BSH are included in its lists of approved navigational equipment. The lists are here available.

Further information

An important requirement is the correct  installation and alignment of navigation lights and the use of approved incandescent lamps.

Navigation lights using LED technology  (PDF in German language) have been permitted since 2006.

The booklet "Lichterführung und Schallsignalanlagen auf Fahrzeugen unter 20 Meter Länge" can be downloaded here (PDF in German language).

An article on the history of navigation lights can be downloaded here (PDF in German language).



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If you have any additional questions, please e-mail
Doreen Thoma, or phone +49 40 3190 - 7320


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 © 2018 Bundesamt für Seeschifffahrt und Hydrographie Last Update: Apr 24, 2017 10:52:27 AM  
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