Facilitating safe and accurate navigation in port and nearshore locations is a top priority for harbour masters — but it is by no means an easy task.  

Channels can be notoriously tricky to navigate, sea and weather conditions are often unfavourable, creating potentially complicated and hazardous environments for vessels navigating close to shore.  

So, to protect seafarers from dangerous circumstances and ensure the efficient day-to-day operation of ports and harbours, a combination of highly reliable navigational aids (navaids) must be deployed in and around these locations.  

Navigation lights are some of the most effective navaids for these applications. But when it comes to ensuring the most suitable and effective strategic navigation lighting for a port or harbour project, which type do you choose? 

Looking for suitable navigation lights

As seafarers rely on visual cues from navaids to stay on course, installing appropriate navigation lights is the key to a comprehensive solution. 

Navigation lights are a crucial addition to any nearshore site operating at all hours, with a wide selection of models providing varying safety benefits. 

For example, leading lights are conventional navaids that show vessels they are correctly positioned when pairs of beacons — one in front and one behind — are aligned.  

However, although these lighting systems have proven reliable in many applications, they might be unsuitable for the changing needs of ports and harbours. As sites become more built up and urban infrastructures expand on the shore, these lights could get lost, or obscured — especially if they are older and not as bright as modern LEDs.  

In this case, sector lights might be a better choice. These lights display light arcs of different colours to show vessels whether they are in the safe zone, shifting from red to white to green depending on the angle of approach. Sector lights can help keep seafarers on the right path, as their distinctive colour characteristics are sometimes easier to identify than traditional leading lights. 

Many sector lights, such as Sabik Marine’s VLS-46 sector lights, boast configurable working modes, allowing users to adjust luminosity to suit day and night time conditions for consistent visibility — even in stormy or foggy weather. 

Synchronised lights are also available to improve visibility further and allow harbour managers to mark clear-cut safety zones. Using GPS time signals, these intelligent models can link together multiple lights to ensure they flash in perfect unison, clearly marking port entrances.  

Installing synchronised lights can help retain perspective at night and make it easier for mariners to distinguish them against a background of other lights and activity. 

Approaching intuitive harbour lighting design 

Marine navigation should not be an intelligence test; sailors should be able to look out of the window and immediately understand where they are to make quick decisions based on their surroundings.  

That is what Hydrosphere seeks to ensure by taking the ambiguity out of navigation and providing bespoke navigation lighting solutions for safer harbours. 

Over time, ports and harbours — and the people and vessels that use them — change. Ships get bigger, water depths change and experienced sailors and harbour managers retire or move on. So, it is crucial that lights and other navaids remain fit for purpose, regardless of how conditions develop around them — and that they are upgraded with intuitive solutions if not.  

At Hydrosphere, we understand the practical and regulatory requirements of aids to navigation for ports and harbours. Our team has a wealth of experience in the marine sector and can develop well-thought-out, efficient navaid systems that suit the current needs of an application whilst also looking to the future.  

By being reactive and helping ports install premium-quality, strategic solutions, we can ensure consistent risk mitigation even in high-traffic ports and facilitate easy navigation in and out of tight channels — no matter what challenges arise. 

As the UK’s leading supplier of marine aids to navigation, we stock a wide selection of solutions suitable for securing ports and harbours, including navigation lights and buoys. Find out which ones are best for your next project by calling +44 (0)1420 520374 or emailing sales@hydrosphere.co.uk