Boat Navigation Lights - A Guide to The Rules in Each Australian State and Territory

Marine Lighting

A man on his boat, casting his fishing rod during sunset.

When it comes to boat navigation lights, it’s every owner’s responsibility to make sure their boat complies. If your boat is out on the water between sunset and sunrise, you need lights. Even during low light conditions during the day, you may need lights. Whether you are anchored or underway, having the right lights onboard helps keep you, your passengers and other water users safe.

Navigational lights tell other skippers what your boat is doing – anchored, motoring, or under sail - so they can predict your movement and anticipate the potential danger of a collision.
 

What are the Different Navigation Lights?

 
  • Masthead – a white light over the centerline of the vessel. It provides an unbroken light over an arc of the horizon of 225 degrees. The light should be fixed to show from anywhere ahead to just behind the vessel’s beams.  

  • All-Round White Light – an unbroken light over an arc of the horizon of 360 degrees.

  • Sidelights – a green light on the starboard side and red light on the port side of a vessel. It provides an unbroken light over an arc of the horizon of 112.5 degrees.

  • Sternlight – a white light placed near the stern providing an unbroken light over an arc of the horizon of 135 degrees.    

A diagram of the different types of boat navigation lights

Guide to Navigation Light Rules in Each State

Regulations apply for both personal and commercial boats, but differ depending which state or territory of Australia you live in.  Follow this navigation lights guide to understand the requirements in your state or territory.
 

New South Wales

Range of Visibility of Lights

For boats under 12 metres, the masthead light should be visible for 2 nautical miles (nm), sidelight for 1 nm, stern light for 2 nm and all-round lights 2 nm. For boats between 12 and 20 metres, the masthead light should be visible for 3 nm, sidelight for 2 nm, stern light for 2 nm and all-round lights for 2 nm.

 

Power Vessel Underway

When underway, a powerboat less than 7 metres long at a maximum speed of 7 knots must use a white light visible all round and separate or combined sidelights if possible.

For vessels under 12 metres, separate or combined sidelights are required, as well as a masthead light and a stern light or separate OR combined sidelights and an all-round white light.

For 12 to 20 metre boats, a masthead light, separate or combined sidelights and stern light are required.

 

Vessels at Anchor

For anchored vessels less than 50 metres long, a round white light must be placed where it can be seen and in a busy area multiple lights should be used to increase the chance of being seen.

For more information, see the NSW night safety requirements for navigation lights.

 

Western Australia

Range of Visibility of Lights

For boats under 12 metres, the masthead light should be visible for 2 nautical miles (nm), sidelight for 1 nm, stern light for 2 nm and all-round lights 2 nm. For boats between 12 and 20 metres, the masthead light should be visible for 3 nm, sidelight for 2 nm, stern light for 2 nm and all-round lights for 2 nm.

 

Power Vessel Underway

When underway, a powerboat less than 7 metres long at a maximum speed of 7 knots must use a white light visible all round and separate or combined sidelights if it's possible.

Vessels under 12 metres require separate or combined sidelights, a masthead light and a stern light OR separate or combined sidelights and an all-round white light.

For 12 to 20 metre boats, a masthead light, separate or combined sidelights and stern light are required.

 

Vessels at Anchor

For anchored vessels less than 50 metres, a round white light must be placed where it can be seen and in a busy area multiple lights should be used to increase the chance of being seen.

For more information, see the lights required for boats in Western Australia.    

 

Victoria

Range of Visibility of Lights

For boats under 12 metres, the masthead light should be visible for 2 nm, sidelight for 1 nm, stern light for 2 nm, towing light 2 nm, and all-round lights 2 nm. For boats between 12 and 50 metres, the masthead light should be visible for 5 nm, sidelight for 2 nm, stern light for 2 nm, towing light for 2 nm and all-round lights for 2 nm. For vessels 50 metres and over, the masthead light should be visible for 6 nm, sidelight for 3 nm, stern light for 3 nm, towing light for 3 nm and all-round lights for 3 nm.  

 

Power Vessel Underway

When underway, a power boat less than 7 metres long at a maximum speed of 7 knots must use a white light visible all round. Sidelights are also required, if practicable.

Vessels under 12 metres require masthead lights, a sternlight and a side light OR sidelights and an all-round white light. Sidelights may be a combined lantern on the fore and aft centreline.  

For vessels under 50 metres, a second masthead light is optional. Separate or combined sidelights and a stern light are required.

For vessels 100 metres or more, decks should also be illuminated with available working or equivalent lights.     

 

Vessels at Anchor

For anchored vessels less than 50 metres, a round white light must be placed where it can be seen. A second lower light is optional.

For 50+ metre vessels, two all-round lights are required with the forward one higher than the aft one.

For vessels 100 metres or more in length, decks should also be illuminated with available working or equivalent lights.

 

For more information, read the vessel navigation lights requirements in Victoria.

 

Queensland

Range of Visibility of Lights

For boats under 12 metres, the masthead light should be visible for 2 nautical miles (nm), sidelight for 1 nm, stern light for 2 nm and all-round lights 2 nm. For boats between 12 and 20 metres, the masthead light should be visible for 3 nm, sidelight for 2 nm, stern light for 2 nm and all round lights for 2 nm.
 

Power Vessel Underway

When underway, a power boat less than 7 metres long at a maximum speed of 7 knots may display an all-round white light instead of sidelights. If practical, sidelights should also be used.

Powered boats must display sidelights and either an all-round white light or a stern and masthead light.
 

Vessels at Anchor

All vessels that are at anchored or attached to a registered buoy mooring must display an all-round white light.  

For more detail, see the safety obligations for navigation lights in Queensland.

 

South Australia

Power Vessel Underway

When underway, a power boat less than 7 metres long at a maximum speed of 7 knots must use a white light visible all round and separate or combined sidelights if possible.

Vessels under 12 metres in length require separate or combined sidelights, a masthead light and a stern light OR separate or combined sidelights and an all-round white light.

For 12 to 20 metre boats, a masthead light, separate or combined sidelights and stern light are required OR a masthead light, combined sidelights and stern light.  
 

Vessels at Anchor

All vessels that are at anchored or attached to a registered buoy mooring must show an all-round white light.  

For more information, see the navigation lights requirements in South Australia.
 

Northern Territory

Range of Visibility of Lights

For boats under 12 metres, the masthead light should be visible for 2 nm, sidelight for 1 nm, stern light for 2 nm and all-round lights 2 nm. For boats between 12 and 20 metres, the masthead light should be visible for 3 nm, sidelight for 2 nm, stern light for 2 nm and all-round lights for 2 nm.
 

Power Vessel Underway

When underway, a power boat less than 7 metres long at a maximum speed of 7 knots must use a white light visible all round and separate or combined sidelights, if possible.

Vessels under 12 metres require a white all-round and separate or combined sidelights OR an all-round white light and sidelights.  

For 12 to 20 metre boats, a masthead light, separate sidelights and stern light are required.
 

Vessels at Anchor

All vessels that are at anchored at night must use an all-round white light OR masthead and stern lights.

For details, see navigation lights on page 22 of the Northern Territory’s Safety Guide for Pleasure Craft.

 

Tasmania

Power Vessel Underway

When underway, a power boat less than 7 metres long at a maximum speed of 7 knots must use a white light visible all round.

Vessels under 12 metres require a white all-round and separate or combined sidelights OR an all-round white light and sidelights.  

 

Vessels at Anchor

All vessels that are anchored at night must use an all-round white light.

For more information, see Tasmania’s navigation rules.

 

Recommended Navigation Lights

Salt and time are the natural enemies of all boat parts and navigation lights are no exception. Burnt out globes, broken wires and blocked or smashed lights occur regularly. It’s essential to maintain your lights to comply with the rules and look after your own safety. If it’s time to upgrade or replace your navigation lighting, we stock and recommend these products:

 

Masthead Lights

FOS 20 LED Vertical Mount Masthead Light Black

FOS 225 Degree Masthead Lights

 

Sidelights

Hella Marine NaviLED PRO Bi-Colour Navigation Lamp

Hella Marine NaviLED Port and Starboard Navigation Lights

FOS 12 LED Bi-Colour Navigation Lights

Navigation Port & Starboard Lights – Side Deck Mount

Navigation LED Port & Starboard Horizontal Mount

Navigation LED BiCol Horizontal Mount

NaviLED Tri Colour Navigation Light 2NM

LED Navigation Lights - NaviPro

 

All Round Light

360 Degree Navigation Light

 

If you have any queries about navigation lights for your boat, don’t hesitate to contact the experts at Boat Accessories Australia on 1300 308 161 or contact us online.  

 
 
Category: Marine Lighting

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