I wish to call your attention to a new type of navigation light bulb which has appeared on the market. These are multiple L.E.D. (light-emitting diode) bulbs which replace the 10W and 25W single vertical filament bulbs in various navigation lamps on small vessels. The bulb fitment is for a direct plug in replacement with the “advantage” of reducing current and battery load at night. HOWEVER, these bulbs DO NOT have a definite cut-off point when fitted into a standard housing. The cut-off points for a masthead tricolour are approximately PLUS / MINUS TWENTY DEGREES !!! Thus: Dual light segments can be seen up to a 40 degree horizontal range!! With the similar 20 degree visual overlap on Bi-colour bow lights and single colour sights. THE ONLY lights for which these LED bulbs are safe to use are for all round white anchor lights and other ALL ROUND lights. You will see that it is quite possible for a vessel to stand into danger attempting to avoid an ambiguous light with expanded sectors. This is clearly a serious accident situation waiting to happen.
CHIRP is fortunate in being able to access expertise from across the maritime sector through its Maritime Advisory Board, one of the members of which is the Cruising Manager of the Royal Yachting Association. He advises that there is concern in a number of respects:
- Some manufacturers are producing LED lights that emit light that is at the blue end of the spectrum and not clearly red or green.
- If an LED bulb is fitted as a replacement in a lantern designed for an incandescent bulb, it may be visible over a much larger angular sector than that prescribed in the ColRegs.
- The electrical circuitry of these lights typically has an inverter but no filter. This may cause interference to electronic equipment.
The RYA has been in discussion with MCA on this issue. The MCA has recently issued Marine Guidance Note 393 on the subject.