Be seen at night

  When night falls, it is a completely different world on the water. This means, that for safety reasons, vessels that operate from sunset to sunrise – whether at anchor or underway, must carry and exhibit the correct lights. Boating at night – go slow, be seen, keep a lookout and be bright.
  NSW Maritime and the Water Police regularly patrol Sydney Harbour during the day and night. Boaters can have their safety equipment and lighting checked at any time and large fines can be issued on the spot. Last year NSW Maritime Boating Safety Officers conducted more than 40,000 on-water safety checks.
  NSW Maritime is also coordinating a night safety awareness effort with the boating industry to further raise awareness of nigh safety issues statewide.

Go slow

  When fog, glare, smoke or darkness restrict your visibility, you must slow down and keep to a safe speed.
  A safe speed is one at which you can stop and avoid a collision, considering the circumstances and conditions at the time. You wouldn’t drive fast on a dark road without headlights – the same applies to dark waterways – be bright.
  Remember – the faster you go, the faster you approach hazards and hitting a hazard at speed can have a greater impact on you, your passengers and boat.

Be seen

  You may be able to see others, but can they see you? At night, every type of craft on the water needs lights in order to be seen.
  Whether you are paddling, rowing, sailing or motoring, everyone needs to be able to recognise where you are and what you’re doing. Make sure you have the right lights for your craft and that they work properly. Use them as soon as the sun goes down or when visibility is poor. Your lights should be mounted in a position that gives you optimum night vision and allows others to see you from every direction.
  Carry a working waterproof torch. It may help others see you if you shine your torch on your sails or superstructure.  Make sure you don’t adversely affect your night vision, or the vision of other boat skippers.
  If you anchor at night, show an all round white light where it can best be seen.

Keep a lookout

  Navigating at night requires special care – it can be like looking into a black hole.
  Look and listen at all times, as a number of hazards are unlit such as logs, moored boats or sand banks. Navigation lights may not be as bright as other lights and background lights may make it harder to distinguish something that is closer. If it is a large ship, the lights might be high and you may not realise that you are looking at the sides of a dark hull.
  If you have the slightest doubt, stop, ensure you are lit and have a good look around you.

Know your waterway

  Navigation markers can aid you in safe passage of a waterway.
  These aids to navigation can indicate where prominent hazards are but should be coupled with reference to a map or chart and local knowledge of the area, particularly in the dark.  For more information on the navigation system, pick up a copy of the free NSW Maritime Boating Handbook.

Different lights

  All round white light: a white light showing an unbroken light over an arc of the horizon of 360 degrees.
  Masthead light
: a white light placed over the fore and aft centreline of a vessel, showing an unbroken light over an arc of the horizon of 225 degrees, and fixed to show from anywhere ahead, to just behind the beams of the vessel.
: a green light on the starboard (right) side, and a red light on the port (left) side of a vessel.  Each shows an unbroken light over an arc of the horizon of 112.5 degrees, and is fixed to show from ahead, to just behind the beams of the vessel, on its respective side. On a vessel of less than 20 metres in length, the sidelights may be combined in one light unit, carried on the fore and aft centreline of the vessel.
: a white light placed near the stern, showing an unbroken light over an arc of the horizon of 135 degrees, fixed to show from behind the vessel.

Range of visibility

  Vessels 12 metres to 20 metres. Masthead light – 3 nautical miles; Sidelight and stern light – 2 nautical miles; All round lights – 2 nautical miles.
  Vessels under 12 metres. Masthead light – 2 nautical miles; Sidelight – 1 nautical mile; Stern light – 2 nautical miles; All round lights – 2 nautical miles.

Placement of lights

  Navigation lights should be positioned so they are not obscured by the vessel’s superstructure or interfered with by the deck lights.


  The masthead and/or all round white light must be fitted (if practical) on the centre line (bow to stern) of the vessel.  

  More information on night safety is available at