If you drive around our towns and cities at night at this time of year, you are likely to see some amazing Christmas light displays. Synchronised lights have become increasingly popular, not just in town centres, but also in residential areas too.

Of course, one place that puts on a good show all year round are our ports, harbours and marinas. Navigation lights may look festive in red, white and green, but instead of guiding Santa down the chimney they are essential for the safe navigation around our coastlines and inland waterways.

Synchronised Navigation Lights

One of the challenges users of ports and harbours have, is the amount of background lighting in coastal areas that makes it difficult to pick out aids to navigation. It’s not just Christmas lights that are the culprits. Many of the buildings surrounding harbours and marinas are festooned in lights all year round, and these can overwhelm the navigation lights in an approach.

Weather conditions can also affect visibility, making it even harder to identify aids to navigation against a background of other lights.

It can be difficult enough for those familiar with a particular harbour to navigate a safe approach; even harder for new visitors, or less experienced mariners.

What’s The Solution?

Harbour masters need to find ways to delineate navigable channels, mark hazards and define the limits of specific areas. Synchronised navigation lights are a great solution.

Against a background of lights, synchronised lights can create order from the seeming chaos of numerous flashing lights, providing the mariner with a clear signal of which lights are relevant to them. They can work in a variety of ways:

Synchronised pairs: If two buoys mark an entry point into a channel, they can be synchronised to make them more visible and identify them as the ‘gate’ to the channel.

Grouping: If the characters are multiples of each other, or have the same period, they will flash in a repeating pattern, making it quicker to identify the hazard being marked. In the case of buoys, you will see the line of the buoys, which is easily seen by day but often lost at night.

By setting all the lights to the same effective intensity (allowing for the eyes ability to see a flash) we can get a correct perception of depth.

Both: If pairs of buoys mark a channel, a combination of these options can be used. Each pair is synchronised to flash at the same time marking the width of the channel, these operate on a time sequence showing the direction of the channel and the relationship between each set of buoys.

With our ports, harbours and marinas dealing with large numbers of vessel movements, from both local users and visiting boats, and the increasing problem of background lighting it becomes imperative to find cost effective solutions for navigating safely.

It doesn’t need to be an intelligence test, with the correct combination of lights we can present the hazards in a quickly identifiable manner. Synchronised navigation lights can be cost effective part of this solution, whether bought outright or hired. If you want to find out how other ports and harbours are using them, read this article on how Stornoway Harbour has deployed synchronised navigation lights here.