International Association of Lighthouse Authorities

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The International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA) is a non-profit organization founded in 1957 to collect and provide nautical expertise and advice.


The International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities brings together representatives of the aids to navigation services of more than 80 member countries for technical coordination, information sharing, and coordination of improvements to visual aids to navigation throughout the world. It was established in 1957 to provide a permanent organization to support the goals of the Technical Lighthouse Conferences, which had been convening since 1929. The General Assembly of IALA meets about every 4 years. The Council of 20 members meets twice a year to oversee the ongoing programs.

Six technical committees maintain the permanent programs:

  • e-NAV – Electronic Navigation;
  • ANM – Aids to Navigation Management – concentrating on management issues experienced by members;
  • EEP – Engineering, Environmental and Preservation – concentrating on the preservation of traditional aids to navigation as well as the engineering aspects of all aids to navigation;
  • VTS – Vessel Traffic Services – concentrating on all issues surrounding VTS
  • PAF – Pilotage Authority Forum
  • LAP – Legal Advisory Panel

IALA committees provide important documentation to the International Hydrographic Organization and other international organizations, while the IALA Secretariat acts as a clearing house for the exchange of technical information, and organizes seminars and technical support for developing countries.

Its principal work since 1973 has been the implementation of the IALA Maritime Buoyage System. This system replaced some 30 dissimilar buoyage systems in use throughout the world with 2 major systems. This rationalised system was introduced as a result of two accidents in the Dover Straits in 1971 when the Brandenburg hit the wreck of the Texaco Caribbean off Folkestone and sank although the wreck was accurately buoyed. A short while later the Niki also struck the Texaco Caribbean and sank, despite the wreckage being adequately marked. The combined loss of lives in these two accidents was 51 persons.[1]

IALA is based near Paris in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France.

Main recommendations[edit]

The IALA is primarily known for its buoyage or sea mark systems that are used in the pilotage of vessels at sea:

  • Lateral marks indicate the edges of a channel.
  • Cardinal marks indicate the direction of safe water at a dangerous spot.
  • Safe water marks indicate the deep water and open end of a channel.
  • Special marks indicate administrative areas, such as speed restrictions or water skiing areas.
  • Isolated danger marks indicate a hazard to shipping.
  • Emergency Wreck Marking Buoy : a new buoy introduced in 2006, marking a new wreck. It replaces the double cardinal or lateral marks (IALA Recommendation O-133).

Each type of mark has a distinctive colour, shape and possibly a characteristic light.

IALA sea mark regions[edit]

2 regions exist around the world; notably the IALA region A and the IALA region B. Region B covers the whole of the Americas, Japan, South Korea and the Philippines, while the rest of the world belongs to the region A.[2]


The text of "Background" section of this article originated from section 125 of the American Practical Navigator[volume & issue needed], a document produced by the government of the United States of America.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Mariner's Handbook", Admiralty, UKHO, p206
  2. ^ IALA Buoyage Regions A e B, November 1980

External links[edit]