Local Aids to Navigation

A Guide for Local Lighthouse Authorities

Local Aids to Navigation

Local Aids to Navigation – ensuring quality of service

One of our duties is to superintend all local Aids to Navigation (AtoN) in Ireland.

The general navigation remit under which we provide AtoN does not extend to individual approaches to ports or harbours. AtoN provided in such areas are termed Local Aids to Navigation.

Whoever provides the AtoN, the quality of service to the mariner should be the same.  Local AtoN may be provided by local responsible bodies or individuals under a Local Lighthouse Authority (LLA).  These AtoN include lighthouses, radio aids, buoys, beacons, poles, signs and any other aid intended to assist safe navigation.

Under the Merchant Shipping Acts (RoI and NI) and the Port Marine Safety Code (NI), we are required to inspect Local AtoN and report the results to the relevant government minister.

AtoN cannot be established, altered or removed without our prior consent.


Local Lighthouse Authorities

Local Lighthouse Authorities (LLA) have authority over Local aids to navigation in their area. Typically they are harbour authorities or county councils.

Local AtoN may be provided by the LLA themselves or by other bodies or individuals. The provider has responsibility for providing and maintaining the AtoN.

LLA responsibilities

  • LLA are responsible for ensuring statutory sanction prior to an AtoN being established, altered or removed and the AtoN provided must meet IALA standards of presentation and availability.
  • The Port Marine Safety Code applies to Ports and LLAs. Both the Code and the associated Good Practice Guide confirm the requirement to maintain AtoN in accordance with a Safety Management System (SMS). The SMS must provide for regular assessment of navigational requirements as well as provision and maintenance of AtoN, performance recording and quarterly reporting to the GLA.
  • LLAs are responsible for assessing the navigational requirements within their jurisdiction.  Applications for statutory sanction for third-party Local AtoN must be submitted to us via the appropriate LLA.

LLA are required to submit quarterly reports to us on the availability of their AtoN.  Where an LLA provides the AtoN, they have the additional responsibilities of providers.


Maintenance of Records

In general, the manner in which records are maintained is a matter for the provider or LLA. However, certain information is required, including:

  • Procedures for responding to outages/failures
  • Details of each aid to navigation
  • Records of failures and repair time
  • Average performance over the last three years
  • IALA categorisation

Details of the performance and availability of LLA AtoN must be returned to us on a quarterly basis.

Maintaining a Safety Management System (SMS) for LLA AtoN is important, both as a support for safe navigation and as a demonstration of due care.

Irish Lights inspection and audit

Our inspection and audit provides a valuable objective assessment of the performance and adequacy of the AtoN management system.

Application for statutory sanction

Consent from us in the form of statutory sanction is required prior to the establishment, alteration, or removal of any AtoN. Application details are available from us on our Statutory Sanction page. Prior consultation can help expedite the statutory sanction process.


AtoN Categorisation

Categorisation of AtoN is the responsibility of the LLA. AtoN are identified as IALA Category 1, 2 or 3 depending on their significance for safe navigation. Factors determining the appropriate category include: degree of risk, importance of AtoN, local mix of AtoN, accessibility and local conditions.

The following availability targets apply:

Category 1 = 99.8% availability
Category 2 = 99.0% availability
Category 3 = 97.0% availability


Aids to Navigation Management System

We have developed a management system to assist in the inspection process and the reporting and recording of all data relevant to local AtoN.  Local Lighthouse Authorities (LLAs) have access to an on-line portal that allows availability reporting, statutory sanction applications and the production of availability reports by AtoN or IALA category.

Local AtoN Management

If you require more information in relation to any of the above sections, please contact our Local Aids to Navigation team.

Email:       local.aton@irishlights.ie
Phone:     +353 1 271 5400