What do you do when your marine navigation buoys keep wandering off station because of exposure to the elements at their location? It can be costly to reposition an off location buoy even just once or twice over the years, so when it happens more frequently, this has consequences to your budget that could be unsustainable.

The Highland Council were facing this challenge with the harbour at Helmsdale which is on the north east coast of Scotland, about 80 kilometres north of Inverness.  Helmsdale is a small harbour used mainly by fishing boats on a coastline exposed to strong currents and high winds.

The existing marine aids to navigation are a set of leading lights with two unlit buoys, marking a narrow harbour entrance.  However, due to the location’s exposure, the buoys are frequently off station and therefore can not be relied upon.

A Reduction in Costs and an Alternative Solution to Navigation Buoys

Marine Superintendent, David Seddon, contacted us at Hydrosphere to find a solution to this problem. He needed a sustainable solution, with an affordable initial outlay and minimal maintenance costs. It was important that this provided a long-term solution to the issue.

Our proposition was to replace the leading lights with a high intensity LED sector light and remove the navigation buoys entirely from the equation.  An LED sector light would accurately mark the channel, without being affected by weather or sea conditions.

The perfect option for this location, as recommended by Hydrosphere, is Sabik’s Vega VLS-46 – Hydrosphere, which is due to be installed at the harbour.

The sector light requires virtually no maintenance, consumes less power than incandescent bulbs, and can be run on a solar power supply. It can achieve night ranges of up to 12 NM, day ranges of over a mile, and will mark the channel with sharp boundary resolution, thereby removing any need for unlit buoys or the less accurate leading lights.

One would expect a light of this quality and capabilities to be expensive, but the reality is that it costs approximately the same as repositioning the buoys, plus there will be minimal maintenance expenditure in the future.  This is a good example of where current technology and modern thinking can provide alternative solutions to age-old problems.  We recommend always asking for advice before you replace like-for-like, and before you pay out another significant sum of money deploying vessels and staff to reposition off station aids.


 An LED Sector Light will accurately mark the narrow harbour entrance

The off station buoys were a persistent problem at Helmsdale over the years.  However, with the advent of high intensity LED’s, their legacy aids to navigation could be reviewed to see whether current technology offered a better solution, which it clearly did.  If you have legacy systems, there’s a fair chance that new technology can provide a better solution, which will reduce long-term costs and deliver more for your money.

Hydrosphere has many years of experience in both navigating vessels and working with the many evolving marine navigation solutions, which means our team are experts in this field. It is always worth talking to us as this can result in a better solution at a reduced cost of ownership. We are always happy to help, to take a look at your location and explore the options with you.

To discuss your requirements, or specific problems, you can get in touch with our team on: +44 (0)1420 520374 or email sales@hydrosphere.co.uk