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Old 03-29-2011, 05:34 PM   #1
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In January 2011 I bought a new set of nav lights out of the *AQUA SIGNAL Series 43 :* a masthead light, a combined sidelight red and green and a sternlight. Then I was a proud owner of electricity saving LED-Nav-lights that only draw 4,5W instead of 60W while under sail. Together with the mast head light I paid the incredible sum of about 450€... but I thought it's worth it because they last for the rest of our boating life.

Then I unpackt the lights and read the operating manuals thoroughly.

There I found out that they are very strong, safety instructions recommend that you do not look right into the LED-lighting because of risk of injury. Wow, strong stuff!

The operating time is max 20.000 hours. Alot of time to do sailing in the dark!

They are approved by the Federal Maritime and Hydrografic Agency (BSH) Germany , for all ships the rule set forth in Annex 1 to the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea. They are in accordance to the IMO-Regulations for collision avoidance from 1972 /COLREG's 1972. A stamp on the lamps and its housing state that they are also approved by the USCG (to my knowledge AQUA SIGNAL is also producing and distributing these lights in the USA). As german naval authorities love to check equipment once in a while, it is better to have approved nav lights to avoid severe fines...

Reading on at this point the manual states, that the lights have to be exchanged after 10 years, because the BSH's approval is only issued for ten years after production date.*

I looked at the production dates of my 3 lights and they said „6/2010“ and I started thinking:

- Do I have to exchange the lamps after 9 years (even though they have been just laying around unused in the shelves of the manufacturer, the forwarding agent, the yacht chandlery and finally on my own shelves before final installation not before May 2011)?*****

*I asked the chandler, if I have to replace the lights according to the expiring date or if I can run the light until the LED obviously dims down. They could not tell and referred me to the AQUA SIGNAL company.

AQUA SIGNAL referred me to the BSH, because they did the tests for the certification and the BSH came up with this information: In use under for the lights ideal climatic conditions (cold climates) they meet the standards (visibility of 2 nm, not changing their colour etc) for about 20.000 hours. As soon as surrounding environmental conditions are warmer or even hot (tropics), the degradation of the LEDs speeds up – reason enough for the BSH to just approve a using time of 10 years, to be on the safe side, even though the BSH knows that many sailors will use their nav light only a couple hundred hours in 10 years ... but they have to consider the charter boats too, that run year around, also under less 'ideal' climatic conditions.

So, the manufacturer for the German marked have to put the production date on their lights, so that the user can see, when he has to throw his light away. (Follow up degradation tests are not planned for yacht navigation light, so the approval will expire exactly after 10 years!)*

But the BSH was not able to tell me what this will mean in practical life – they referred me to the law enforcing authorities, the marine police.

Their answer was short and clear: If there is a manufacturing date on the light, they will look for this date and if your light is older than 10 years, your lights are not approved and you will be fined.

They will not care at all, if the light is bought a year after manufacturing date or if you used your mast top light only 500 hours in ten years, because you have a sailboat, that doesn't motor 20.000 hours at night in 10 years (which could be read out of the ships log).*

Back to the chandler I returned my lights (which they gladly did) and asked for lights out of the latest batch – without success: Now in March I found no newer light in the shelves – even worse: I found lights manufactured in 8/2009!!! Without a reduction in price. And at the stores info desk I learned that it is quite normal that the time span between manufacturing and sale for yacht equipment is one year in average...

So... back to my 1972 built 25/10W lightbulb nav lights (which have an unlimited general approval by the BSH and therefor stay legal for another 39 years). And as I am still fascinated by the low consuming LED-Nav Lights I'll buy the sailing lights (red/green and stern) later on, but will keep my old light for the law enforcement people in future years... and I still can be proud of my LED-Nav Lights after 2020 in international waters.

Uwe

SY Aquaria***

**
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Old 03-30-2011, 09:16 PM   #2
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Thanks so much for sharing information with us! Sorry to hear about the 10 year from date of mfr, though. However, if one amortizes the purchase price and includes an appropriate $ benefit to not having to replace bulbs, use of less electric, etc... over the 10 year period, it still might be worthwhile.

Here in the US, the requirements are written in terms of visibility at a certain distance. When you dig into the CFR, there's information about the light (bulb) and fixture being tested together (performance requirements of the testing) so that a vendor can market the set (light and fixture) and as far as I know, there is nothing regarding expiry of the LED fixtures.

We do have people here in the USA who buy replacement LED bulbs and put them in their regular navigation light fixtures. By doing this, unless the vendor of the LED bulb has performed testing with the exact fixture the boater has and published the results (so the boater can keep a copy aboard), the boater is at risk of a USCG fine for not having nav lights of sufficient brightness for his vessel. Or, the boater would have to perform testing to the USCG spec him/herself. I don't know any boaters doing that.

What is better, in the USA at least, is to go ahead and purchase the LED fixture with LED bulb as a set.

Even with regular incandescent bulbs, the boater needs to make sure he/she is providing sufficient light. If the lenses of the fixture are plastic and have become hazed, the lighting might not meet regulatory requirements. Similarly, if the boater has replaced the OEM bulb with a different bulb, he/she needs to make sure that it is providing sufficient light. Finally, with voltage drops over long wire distances, the bulb can be burning dimmer than specified. Keeping track of the voltage drop then is also important to assure that the boater is providing at least the illumination required by the regulation if not more.

On our boat, we kept the old incandescent fixtures for use when motoring and placed an OGM LED tricolor/anchor atop the mast for use when sailing. So, two systems.
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Old 03-31-2011, 12:43 PM   #3
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I'm certainly no expert, but...

I like LED's and I retrofitted them in my Aqua Signal Tri-Color / Anchor light fixture atop my mast while in the Caribbean. They draw so little power that I just leave one or the other ON 24/7 anytime I'm outside a designated anchorage! And they don't burn-out. I recently replaced the anchor light "bulb" (made by Dr LED) because it grew noticably faint after 7 years' use and I have a better LED tri-color replacement standing by for when the night comes that I decide to replace that one, too.

But I've never heard of anyone being ticketed or fined for having lights that were out of date or for not being bright enough.

In the United States the Code of Federal Regulations (CFRs) and COLREGS dictate international rules regarding the minimum distance for which lights need to be visable for certain size vessels. These are Minimum Requirements and I doubt there's anything wrong with having lights that are brighter.

Here in Australia, in order for a vessel to be commercially certified it must have a complete secondary set of approved lights. Kerosene lanterns were (and maybe still are) acceptable. And I personally believe it's prudent for EVERY vessel to be equiped that way because changing a bulb at sea can be somewhat difficult at times.

I've been working on boats all my adult life and the ONLY time CFRs have come into discussion about lights was during design reviews & equipment selection during boat building projects.

Colombia Yachts used to install their side lights in the bows - below the deck-level. These were soon deemed inadiquate, so Colombia changed their light locations and continued building popular boats until they eventually went out of business. But I still occasionally see old Colombias with their original lights and, upon discussion, not one owner has said they've been ticketed or fined for using these antiquated lights.

I believe your concerns, Uwe, are hypothetical and doubt it will ever become an issue in real life.

If I were in your deck shoes, I'd install the best LED's you can get, switch them on and then go for a sunset stroll along the waterfront and see how bright they actually are. I'd walk to a waterfront pub two miles away, have a beer while admiring my lights and then move on to the next pub and repeat the "study" and continue on until I'm either satisfied with the lights or so wobbly on my feet that I need my wife to come get me!

And I'll wager a bottle of rum that no one ever checks the manufacture date on any of your light bulbs - ever.

International Regulations say that a sailing vessel SHALL exhibit side lights and a stern light and MAY use a Tri-Color light at the top of the mast. And I'm astounded that so many new sailboats are delivered with only Tri-Color & Masthead (steaming) lights! Granted - this is okay for any sailing vessel less than 20 meters... but the moment a sailing vessel engages the engine for propulsion, they become a power-driven vessel and have no means to properly display that fact (Ref: COLREGS Annex I (g) & (h). We've seen countless sailboats motoring for home after dark displaying lights that indicate they're fishing vessels! In my book, every sailing vessel should have a Tri-Colour light in addition to lights prescribed for power-driven vessels.

It's entirely up to you to decide how to best be seen at night and the brighter your lights are - the better... not only for your own safety but for the safety of your fellow sailors, as well.

To Life!

Kirk
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Old 03-31-2011, 04:14 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gallivanters View Post

I'm certainly no expert, but...

...

But I've never heard of anyone being ticketed or fined for having lights that were out of date or for not being bright enough.

In the United States the Code of Federal Regulations (CFRs) and COLREGS dictate international rules regarding the minimum distance for which lights need to be visable for certain size vessels. These are Minimum Requirements and I doubt there's anything wrong with having lights that are brighter.

...

I believe your concerns, Uwe, are hypothetical and doubt it will ever become an issue in real life.

If I were in your deck shoes, I'd install the best LED's you can get, switch them on and then go for a sunset stroll along the waterfront and see how bright they actually are. I'd walk to a waterfront pub two miles away, have a beer while admiring my lights and then move on to the next pub and repeat the "study" and continue on until I'm either satisfied with the lights or so wobbly on my feet that I need my wife to come get me!

And I'll wager a bottle of rum that no one ever checks the manufacture date on any of your light bulbs - ever.

International Regulations say that a sailing vessel SHALL exhibit side lights and a stern light and MAY use a Tri-Color light at the top of the mast. And I'm astounded that so many new sailboats are delivered with only Tri-Color & Masthead (steaming) lights! Granted - this is okay for any sailing vessel less than 20 meters... but the moment a sailing vessel engages the engine for propulsion, they become a power-driven vessel and have no means to properly display that fact (Ref: COLREGS Annex I (g) & (h). We've seen countless sailboats motoring for home after dark displaying lights that indicate they're fishing vessels! In my book, every sailing vessel should have a Tri-Colour light in addition to lights prescribed for power-driven vessels.

It's entirely up to you to decide how to best be seen at night and the brighter your lights are - the better... not only for your own safety but for the safety of your fellow sailors, as well.

To Life!

Kirk
Yes, you are right! I'll buy the LED-Nav lights anyway, because they are so bright and electricity saving and I was indeed thinking, that the thing with the manufacturing (and expiring) date won't be an issue in real life, until the marine police's info brought be back to reality - it almost upset me!!

So far, with the traditional lights the marine police handles the light issue, like redbopeep mentioned:

"Even with regular incandescent bulbs, the boater needs to make sure he/she is providing sufficient light. If the lenses of the fixture are plastic and have become hazed, the lighting might not meet regulatory requirements. Similarly, if the boater has replaced the OEM bulb with a different bulb, he/she needs to make sure that it is providing sufficient light. Finally, with voltage drops over long wire distances, the bulb can be burning dimmer than specified. Keeping track of the voltage drop then is also important to assure that the boater is providing at least the illumination required by the regulation if not more."

If these standards were met, everything was fine and we did once in a while exchange the light bulbs or even the hazed fixture. So far, it was the quality of light (bright enough and correct colour) that was examined. But with the LEDs things will change: they will look for the manufacturing date and won't care about the quality of the light when it is older than 10 years and the gentleman from the marine police was already pretty sure that the local rules will be adjusted to this new situation (expiring certificates).

And about the bottle of rum: good to see that authorities of other seafaring nations give common sence a chance. But here where we sail, the chance to cross the course of a marine police boat is quite big and Germany is known for establishing and enforcing rules wherever possible. And when there is a stamped date to look at and the knowledge of a certificate behind it, they look at it. (Well, this sounds quite negative, but it is owed to the fact that our national coastal waters and river estuaries are areas of very dence traffic and so, everyone has to do its best. And it would be absolutely impossible motoring 10 natical miles under the tricolor and the masthead light or with an LED-bulb exchanging the tratitional light bulb in an old style Nav-light: The colours will be off, the sharp distinguation between the colours red, green and white is no longer possible and this is way too obvious tu use on the water at dark.

At least here.

Uwe

SY Aquaria
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