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To avoid confusion and help create safe navigation to mariners of different regions IALA have created a worldwide buoyage system. Region A & Region B. IALA Maritime Buoyage System, Buoyage Regions A and B. This information is believed to be correct at time of issue by IALA (March ). The IALA Buoyage System, for the most part, ended years of confusion for most mariners and The chart below shows the delineation of Regions A and B. IALA .

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By Simon Jollands in NavigationPreparation 0 comments. As recently as the s there were more than 30 buoyage systems in use around the world.

Aids to Navigation (ATON’s) and the IALA: IALA-A, IALA-B

There followed a worldwide effort to develop a safe, unified maritime buoyage system that could be followed by all vessels at sea. The IALA chose the two systems in order to keep the number of v to existing systems to a minimum and to avoid major conflict. The difference between the two systems is the colour and light characteristics used for lateral marks, as follows:.

IALA B starboard lateral marks and lights are coloured red. Lateral marks indicate the port and starboard sides of navigable channels. These are used in accordance with the direction of buoyage for the region or specific location, as indicated on marine charts.


In IALA Region A the lateral marks on the starboard systeem of the channel are coloured green and should be passed on the starboard side of the vessel.

Those on the port side of the channel should be passed on the port side of the vessel.

IALA System of Buoyage – Navigation Aids

In IALA Region B the lateral marks on the starboard side of a channel are coloured red and on the port side are coloured green. Aside from the different lateral marks, both systems use identical cardinal, isolated danger, safe water and special marks.

In new danger marks were introduced, see details below. Cardinal marks warn of hazards to be avoided such as shallows or rocks. Their markings and shape indicate which side of a buoy a vessel should pass and are placed either to the north, south, east or west of a hazard. Therefore a vessel should pass to the west of a west cardinal mark, or to the east of a east cardinal mark and so on. They are painted in combinations of yellow and black and have two distinct cone shapes on top, arranged in different combinations to help identify them.

Isolated danger marks are used to indicate a single hazard, such as a wreck, which has navigable water all around it.

An explanation of the IALA maritime buoyage systems – IALA A and IALA B

Vessels should keep well clear of the mark on all sides. They are coloured black with red bands and have two black balls above each other on the top of the mark.


Safe water marks indicate there is safe water all around the mark. They are used at the start of a buoyed channel when approaching a systrm from the sea. They coloured with red and white vertical stripes.

Special marks are not intended primarily as navigation marks. They are used to mark the boundaries of areas used for recreation eg water skiing or buyoage, as racing marks and also for naval activities such as gunnery ranges.

Special marks are coloured yellow and can be a variety of shapes. New danger marks were introduced in and are used as emergency marks for recent wrecks or new hazards which do not appear on nautical charts. They are coloured with blue and yellow vertical stripes.

Safe Skipper apps have recently updated our Buoys and Lights app, which includes a full illustrated guide and a very useful test yourself section, see here. Your email address will not be published.

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