Our Area of Responsibility

This area covers half the waters and coastline of the United Kingdom, including the majority of offshore manned oil installations. The approximate length of this coastline is 6,214 miles (10,000km) a land area of 30,405sq miles (77,700 sq km) and 790 islands*.

* Source Scottish Statistics.

Most of the significant lighthouses and other aids to navigation for general navigation outside harbour limits are provided directly by us.

We currently own and maintain:

  • 208 Lighthouses
  • 174 Buoys
  • 25 Beacons
  • 49 AIS Stations
  • 29 Racons

Under our supervision, harbour authorities and other third parties provide aids to navigation in harbour areas and outside harbour areas on structures such as outfalls, renewable energy sites and oil and gas installations. These consist of approximately:

  • 2200 Local Lighthouse Authority (LLA) AtoN
  • 130 Oil and Gas Installations
  • 500 Aquaculture Sites

Through our UK commitment, we are required by SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea), to operate in accordance with International recommendation and guidelines. For marine aids to navigation, the standards are set by the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA).  We are an active member of this body and involved with IALA committees and work groups which enable all members to share expertise and experiences and contribute to developments in their field.

The method of measuring Aids to Navigation and the recognised availability standards are set for each category of Aid by IALA. These are published in the IALA Aids to Navigation Guide (NAVGUIDE – 2010 Edition).

IALA states that the absolute minimum level of operational availability for individual aids to navigation is 95%. If availability of an individual Aid falls below this level then consideration must be given to withdrawing the Aid to Navigation from service.

The availability of the actual Aid to Navigation (e.g. whether the light is flashing correctly or a buoy is on station) is over a 3 year continuous period. High levels of availability, which matches or exceeds Internationally recognised standards, ensures that we provide the service required by mariners in our hostile marine environment.

Availability is measured by dividing total time (i.e. the sum of the total number of hours in a year multiplied by the number of Aids to Navigation in each category) into the difference between total time and the number of hours that the Aids were not available to the mariner. This calculation is then expressed as a percentage.

Each of the traditional aids to navigation operated by us are allocated an IALA category:

Category 1

An aid to navigation that we consider to be of primary navigational significance. It includes the lighted aids to navigation and racons that are considered essential for marking landfalls and primary routes.

Category 2

An aid to navigation that we consider to be of navigational significance. It includes lighted aids to navigation and racons that mark secondary routes and those used to supplement the marking of primary routes.

Category 3

An aid to navigation that we consider to be of less navigational significance than Category 1 and 2.

Feedback from our users is essential if we are to continue to provide this vital service. For example, you might think that lights are in the wrong place, wrong range, wrong colour or that new buoys should be established. You may have views on the colour or condition of our lighthouses.

If you have any views or suggestions, please contact the Navigation Team:
Email: navigation@nlb.org.uk
Tel: 0131 473 3100