Who we are

Welcome to the Northern Lighthouse Board.

We have provided a vital safety service to mariners since 1786 and are responsible for the superintendence and management of all lights, buoys and beacons within Scottish and Isle of Man waters*. Our service makes a significant contribution to the prevention of accidents and incidents around the coastline, safeguarding not only lives and property, but also protecting our precious marine environment.

We currently operate and maintain 208 lighthouses and 174 buoys as well as providing radio aids to navigation (AtoN). We are also responsible for ensuring other AtoN providers in our area, such as port authorities, are conforming to international standards. We operate two ships NLV PHAROS and NLV POLE STAR. The ships carry out buoy work, deliver stores and supplies to lighthouses and inspect navigation aids on oil and gas rigs in the Scottish sector.

Our principal concern is with safety: the safety of the mariner at sea; the safety of our own people employed in or around some of the world’s most dangerous coastlines; and the safety of the environment in which we, and those who come after us, must live and work.

*Under Section 193 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses are appointed as the General Lighthouse Authority for Scotland and its adjacent seas and islands, in addition to the Isle of Man. Under Section 195 of the act, we are vested with responsibility for the superintendence and management of all associated lighthouses, buoys and beacons.

Our mission as a General Lighthouse Authority is to deliver in the most sustainable way practicable, a reliable, efficient and cost-effective Aids to Navigation service for the benefit and safety of all Mariners. We will achieve this by working closely with a number of national and international organisations, including Trinity House, the Commissioners of Irish Lights, GRAD, the Maritime & Coastguard Agency, the UK Hydrographic Office and the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA).

Our vision is to:

Utilise the expertise, innovation, commitment and pride of our people to identify, develop and deploy AtoN services that meet the future requirements of vessels and their crews, to ensure the continued protection of lives, trade and the environment.



The costs of our services are met from the General Lighthouse Fund (GLF). The income to the GLF comes from Light Dues which are charged on commercial shipping at United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland ports. There is no direct United Kingdom tax-payer funding. The Secretary of State for Transport has a duty to ensure the effective management of the GLF and enable the adequate provision of aids to navigation at the minimum cost.

Light dues are levied on vessels (other than tugs, fishing vessels and pleasure vessels subject to periodical charges) when they enter UK and Republic of Ireland ports, and are paid into the General Lighthouse Fund.

Non-periodical Light Dues are currently charged at a rate of 41 pence (from 1 April 2022) per net registered tonne (nrt) (the tonnage cap of 40,000 nrt), for up to 9 voyages per year. From 1 April 2023, Light Dues will increase by four pence to 45 pence per net tonne for 2023-24.

Above these caps (40,000 nrt and 9 voyages) vessels do not pay any further Light Dues payments. The net registered tonnage of a ship is a calculation of the volume of all cargo spaces of the ship. It indicates a vessel’s earning space.

The General Lighthouse Authorities (GLAs) of the United Kingdom and Ireland are:

  • Northern Lighthouse Board responsible for Scotland and the Isle of Man
  • Trinity House  responsible for England, Wales, Channel Isles and Gibraltar
  • Irish Lights  responsible for the whole of Ireland

Together we have the statutory responsibility for the provision of marine aids to navigation around the British Isles. Our joint mission is the delivery of a reliable, efficient and cost effective aid to navigation service for the benefit and safety of all mariners.

The General Lighthouse Authorities are supported by GRAD.

GRAD undertakes research and development of physical and radio marine aids to navigation to support the GLA’s mission to deliver a reliable, efficient and cost-effective aids to navigation service for the benefit and safety of all mariners.

In recent years, the team’s successes have included a number of world firsts in the fields of radionavigation and visual signalling; GRAD and its staff are recognised the world over for their knowledge and achievements in the provision and future provision of marine aids to navigation.