Swap Navigation Lights Legally

Posted: May 1, 2012

Simply substituting an LED light instead of the entire unit may go against Navigational Rules.

By: Sea Magazine Staff

The benefits of LED lights over traditional incandescent lights have been touted everywhere, especially in the marine industry, where LEDs’ low power draw and ability to stay cool during use are big pros. Certain places on the boat are not good candidates for a straight swap of incandescent for LED, according to Hella marine (hellamarine.com): navigation lights. Navigation light fixtures are certified as “a combination of a specific lens, a specific bulb and the necessary foundation and wiring,” said Phil Cappel, chief of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Recreational Boating Product Assurance Branch. “The boat owner or operator must ensure that when bulb replacement is necessary, only the original type bulb is used. Any substitutions can result in the light no longer meeting the Navigation Rule requirements.”

While a wide variety of replacement bulbs are available, including LED bulb conversion kits, it’s not enough to find a bulb that fits the fixture, because, according to Hella, that won’t assure the boater of a properly certified navigation light, unless the lamp manufacturer has third-party certified it for its own lamp.

“Unless approved and tested by the light fixture manufacturer, LED retrofit bulbs do not belong in navigation lights,” said Brian Goodwin, technical director for the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC).

The simple solution for owners wishing to upgrade to LED navigation lights is to replace the entire light assembly with a certified product. This ensures their navigation lights are safe, and legal.

Posted By: Mike On: 5/25/2012

Title: LED's

Thank you Jim,
I see no reference in the regs that would convince me that I have to stay with a certain type of bulb. My read is the visibility of the lamps, not the type of lamp. The replacement of a whole fixture sounds as though someone has an agenda. An older boat that could really use a lower draw lamp would look goofy with a modern bulb and fixture.
I, for one, would like to use a lower draw bulb in my beautiful antique fixtures and wouldn't consider replacing them.

Posted By: Jim Jones On: 5/25/2012

Title: Isn't this a dealer only concern?

§ 183.803 Applicability.
This subpart applies to recreational vessel manufacturers, distributors, and dealers installing such equipment in new recreational vessels constructed after November 1, 2002.
§ 183.803 Definitions.
As used in this subpart: Dealer means any person who is engaged in the sale and distribution of recreational vessels to purchasers who the seller in good faith believes to be purchasing any such recreational vessel for purposes other than resale. Distributor means any person engaged in the sale and distribution of recreational vessels for the purpose of resale. Manufacturer means any person engaged in:
(1) The manufacture, construction, or assembly of recreational vessels, or
(2) The importation of recreational vessels into the United States for subsequent sale.
Navigation lights are those lights prescribed by the Navigation Rules (Commandant Instruction 16672.2 series) to indicate a vessel’s presence, type, operation, and relative heading.

Posted By: Redleg On: 5/25/2012


Great info. I did not know this although it makes sense.

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