In January 2011 I bought a new set of nav lights out of the Â*AQUA SIGNAL Series 43
:Â* 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 450â‚¬... 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.Â*
I looked at the production dates of my 3 lights and they said â€ž6/2010â€œ 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)?Â*Â*Â*Â*Â*
Â*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 â€“ 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!)Â*
But the BSH was not able to tell me what this will mean in practical life â€“ 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).Â*
Back to the chandler I returned my lights (which they gladly did) and asked for lights out of the latest batch â€“ without success: Now in March I found no newer light in the shelves â€“ 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.