IALA Buoyage Flashcards

All mariners need a comprehensive knowledge of the buoyage rules and should be able to instantly identify a navigation mark and understand its meaning. These Flash Cards show buoys and navigational marks in full color, with the meaning and light characteristics on the reverse.

This set of cards covers IALA (International Association of Lighthouse Authorities) Regions A & B along with Cardinal, Western Rivers and Inter-coastal Waterways marks.

In 1980 the IALA decided to combine two navigation marking systems A and B into one – the IALA System but maintained the color differences.

In the IALA System the region A the red color buoys indicate the left side of the channel when entering for seaward. The opposite applies for Region B where the red buoys indicate the right side of the channel (red, right, return).

All nautical charts will indicate the IALA buoyage system in use.

The IALA System has five types of signs that are used in various associations. The signs have specific identification elements that make them easily recognizable to the sailors. The lateral signs in the Regions A and B are different, but the other four signs are common for these both regions.

The lateral buoys and marks are placed according to the direction accepted for marking of the right and left side of the fairway. In the Region A, during the day and night, the green color is used to mark the right side of the fairway, and the red color – to mark the left side.

In the Region B the colours are reversed, ie the red color is used for the right side, and the green color – for the left side.

When the path is divided on a fairway, then the direction of the main path is shown with a modified lateral buoy in order to indicate the direction of this main path.

Cardinal Buoys indicate a hazard of some kind and indicate which side to pass. They are placed to the north, south, east or west of the hazard. The cardinal buoys have mainly the shape of columns or poles. They are painted in horizontal, yellow and black stripes, and their top marks (two cones) are painted black. The arrangement of cones at the top indicates which side to pass. In addition, the marks are painted with yellow and black stripes of different configurations.

Cardinal buoys are equipped with white light characterized by a special rhythm.

Isolated Danger Marks are placed directly over minor obstacles around which the water is navigable. They have shapes of columns, poles or other, however, they are difficult to confuse with the cardinal buoys. They are black with horizontal red stripes. The top marks consists of two black spheres one above the other. The light is white – a group flash light Fl(2) with two flashes in a group.

Safe Water Marks indicate that water is navigable around the mark and they do not show any hazards. They can be used to mark a fairway axis or as approach sign. The safe water marks appearance is completely different from the one of the buoys that indicate the hazard. The shape of the mark can vary but they always have red and white vertical stripes and a red sphere as a top mark. When the light is installed, then its color is white and its rhythm may be isophase, occulting, long flash or the Morse Code letter “A”.

Special Buoys and Marks do not represent navigational aids. They indicate a special area or an object mentioned on maps or in other nautical documents and publications.

These special marks are painted yellow and have a top mark in the shape of a yellow lying cross (X). The light (if installed) is also yellow. As in poor visibility it is possible to mistake the yellow color for the white, the yellow lights of the special marks cannot have the rhythm adopted for marks with the white light. The shape of the special marks cannot be confused with the shape of navigational marks.

New danger mark. Attention is being drawn to the fact that a “new danger” that has not yet been announced in nautical documents may be indicated with a duplicating mark being identical (in all details) with the principal mark. The duplicating mark should stay until the news about the new danger has been adequately announced. The “new danger” mark should be equipped with a Racon sending out the letter “D” in the Morse Code.

Additional resources: US Chart Number One

IALA Buoyage Flashcard Examples

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