Commercial Services

While our primary function is to carry out our statutory duties providing Aids to Navigation for the safety of the mariner, the Merchant Shipping and Maritime Security Act 1997, allows us to use any spare capacity in the statutory programme to offer marine support services. As the most experienced provider of AtoN services in Scottish and Manx waters, find out how we could support you.

Our base at Oban offers a wide range of engineering and ship support services. For more information and to see our Terms and Conditions click on the Marine Base Support tab below.

We operate two ships from our base in Oban. They are versatile platforms, equipped to a high standard with crews experienced in working in the most hostile and treacherous conditions. Both vessels have full hydrographic survey suites and are able to support:

  • Buoy deployment & recovery both inshore & offshore in the North Sea & Atlantic
  • Medium and small scale hydrographic sampling
  • Sea-bed sampling and testing
  • Deployment of subsea sensors and measuring devices
  • ROV support
  • Deployment and recovery of marine hardware


The two ships are equipped with full multi-beam hydrographic survey suites which, with their DP capability, make them ideal platforms for conducting a wide range of survey work.

The available deck area and equipment allows the deployment and recovery of a variety of scientific devices and instruments or the installation of supporting infrastructure.

We don’t employ a dedicated Hydrographer but can work either with client’s own staff or contract surveyor.

Both vessels can carry more survey staff if working from a shore base with survey crew living ashore.

Survey Equipment


PHAROS is a multi-function tender which came into service in 2007 to support the maintenance of our lighthouses and other AtoNs. She has an overall length of 84.25 metres, a breadth of 16.5 metres and a draught of only 4.25 metres. She is equipped with Dynamic Positioning (DPII), a 30 Tonne main crane on her 300m2 aft deck.

She works with a contract helicopter and her own workboat to provide access to and re-supply of some of the most remote assets in Scotland and the Isle of Man. With a large ship’s office and on-board facilities she can act as a mobile project support base for operations in remote areas. PHAROS has a crew of 18 and has additional accommodation for 12 supernumeraries.

PHAROS benefits from Dynamic Positioning Class 2, 300m2 of deck space with container fixing points, a small moonpool to enable instrument deployment, a large ship’s office and berths for 12 survey staff.


POLE STAR is a medium buoy tender and came into service in 2000. She is smaller than PHAROS with an overall length of 51.52 metres, a breadth of 12 metres and a draft of only 3.46 metres, which allows her to work in otherwise inaccessible waters. Her Dynamic Positioning (DPI) makes her a very versatile vessel.

POLE STAR is specifically designed to handle all classes of GLA buoys and is equipped with an 18 Tonne crane on her 90m2 aft deck. She carries a crew of 15 and has berths for 6 supernumeraries.

POLE STAR is a dynamic positionally equipped vessel with 90m2 of aft working deck and berths for 4 survey staff.


Buoy services is one of our core functions. We maintain the buoys to a very high standard and the expected lifespan of an NLB steel buoy body is in excess of 50 years. Buoys are maintained by our two ships and periodically they are taken to our Oban base for a full overhaul and in-depth maintenance.

We can offer this same quality of service to clients in their navigational marking requirements and can provide:

Buoy Rental and Maintenance Service

We can provide buoys for rental in support of Local Light Authorities (LLAs), offshore renewable energy sites, utility companies, ferry routes, etc. Rental will incorporate a full maintenance plan to ensure compliance to IALA standards.

Buoy Maintenance

For clients who own their own buoys, we offer a full, on location buoy maintenance programme to maintain safe navigation. The facilities at NLB Oban can also be used to give an intensive overhaul if required.

Buoy Deployment

We are experts at deploying and recovering buoys safely and without structural damage. Our ships are purpose built  and designed to deploy buoys and their associated moorings, whether they be for well-head marking, meteorological and environmental data collection, guarding wave-riders or marking outfalls and other man-made hazards. The deepest buoy deployment to date was in a water depth of 2000 metres.

To support the requirement for navigational markings on offshore structures, we have developed a range of solutions to assist in ensuring full compliance with current legislation:

  • Marking of offshore structures undergoing decommissioning
  • Temporary marking of offshore structures during installation
  • Marking of offshore structures post decommissioning
  • Maintenance and deployment of offshore marker buoys
  • Monitoring of Aids to Navigation


We offer both short and long-term solutions to fit with clients’ decommissioning programmes. This allows cost-effective solutions for use during the decommissioning process and for the permanent marking of any remaining structure in perpetuity.

Interim AtoN

The Interim AtoN is a self-contained, solar-powered Aid to Navigation incorporating a 10nm lantern and optional Racon and GPS synchronisation. It is designed for use on platforms during the topside removal phase and can be relocated as the project develops to give continuous conspicuity in latitudes to 61 deg North. The Interim AtoN can also be used during the development of a field. For example, to mark a caisson tower until a jack-up unit is installed for operations.

Rigwatcher AtoN

The Rigwatcher AtoN was developed to fulfil the need for the long-term marking of decommissioned offshore structures left in place, such as concrete gravity base platforms. Rigwatcher is a self-contained, solar-powered AtoN designed to be monitored remotely and exchanged for maintenance by helicopter remote lifting. Where more than one unit is deployed on the remaining structures in a decommissioned field, GPS synchronisation will provide clear conspicuity. Continuous remote monitoring via satellite is achieved from our Monitor Centre in Edinburgh.

Offshore Marker Buoys

Offshore Marker Buoys are deployed to mark well-heads and other subsea assets. Our skills in buoy handling ensures the safe and cost effective deployment, recovery and maintenance of buoys.

NLB Oban

Our base at Oban offers a wide range of engineering and ship support services. Please read and download our Terms and Conditions – Oban Base Terms and Conditions – 27 October (662283707_5) (PDF)


Our ISPS PAX category berth can handle vessels of up to 100m LOA and draft not exceeding 5m. It is particularly suitable for small cruise vessels calling at Oban. Fuel, water, waste disposal and shore power facilities are available on request.

Maintenance and Servicing

The Base provides complete facilities for the maintenance and servicing of Aids to Navigation both for the inshore and offshore markets. Facilities include:

  • Ultra high pressure washing
  • Dedicated paint spray booth
  • Non-destructive testing
  • Electrical and electronic testing


Monitoring of Aids to Navigation from a staffed Monitor Centre provides for informed, proactive maintenance scheduling, which can enable compliance with IALA standards. Staffed around the clock, 365 days a year, the Monitor Centre provides surveillance of Aids to Navigation via land-line, GSM, VHF and satellite signal, reporting on:

  • light activation
  • racon status
  • battery condition
  • charging status
  • generator activity

Environmental and Maritime Data Gathering

Evaluation of NLB sites to assess capability of supporting data gathering devices in support of offshore renewable energy devices.

Aids to Navigation Advice

We can provide non-statutory advice on the design and implementation of bespoke Aids to Navigation marking schemes.