IALA-A and IALA-B Navigation Marks and Atons

Posted by Director of Education on March 28, 2017 under Bareboat Charter, Coastal Navigation, Crew, Rules of Right of Way, Skipper | Comments are off for this article


Getting confused about Lateral Navigation Marks and ATONs? There are two systems in the world. IALA-A and IALA-B. Basically, the colors are opposite but here is the infographic.

This information and everything else you need to know about coastal navigation is in the NauticEd Coastal Navigation Course. It’s only $39. Upon completion, the course is added to your globally accepted sailing resume.

Info graphic showing IALA-A and IALA-B systems

Infographic showing IALA-A and IALA-B systems

Here is a world map of where these systems are used.

  • On IALA-B use “red – right – returning”. i.e. put the red buoy on your right when returning.
  • On IALA-A you use the mnemonic “Is there any red port left” to memorize which color buoy you pass on which side of your boat (when returning). i.e. take red buoy to your port (which is the left side of your boat.). Universally, “Is there any red port left?” also works for memorizing what color lights are on your boat. i.e. The red light is mounted on your port side of your boat which is the left side of your boat. For IALA-A is is also easy to remember that you match the color of your boats light to the buoy light. i.e. Red to Red and Green to Green.
IALA Regions

IALA Regions

Just FYI: IALA stands for International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities.

A few rules and signs and lights to learn when sailing

Posted by Grant Headifen on January 25, 2009 under Rules of Right of Way, Skipper | Be the First to Comment

Once you’ve decided that you like it and you now want to learn to sail for yourself, there are just a few things to learn, actually quite a lot but don’t be intimidated – we all started sailing some where – some time.

The rules of right of way can be a bit daunting so that’s why we created the FREE rules of right of way clinic for all. Below however, is a graphic that anyone can use for learning the ATONS (aids to navigation). But the point to be careful of is that for the America’s it’s backwards from the rest of the world or is the rest of the world backwards? I Guess it’s 250 million against the rest right? Actually a few more vote on the American side. Here’s the map.

IALA-B and IALA-A system for ATONS

IALA-B and IALA-A system for ATONS

The IALA-B system is used by North-Central and South America and Japan and Philippines. The rest of the world uses the IALA-A system.

IALA stands for the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities. There are just two systems IALA-A and IALA-B which operate in different parts of the world.This should be of particular note to those going chartering in various parts of the world. The essential difference is that the colors (colours) are swapped for entrances into harbors. The reason is said to be that the Americans during the war for independence wanted to confuse the British ships and so swapped the colors.

But you absolutely must learn these when learning to sail. But don’t worry they are easy. All you have to do is remember this “Red, Right, Returning” under the IALA-B system (North-central and South America and Japan and Philippines). That’s it! IE when you are returning from sea into the channel (or going upstream) keep the red markers on your right. In the case of the preferred channel take notice of what ever color is on top, that is, if red is on top then keep the marker on your right for the preferred channel. Red Right Returning! Right?

Confused? Well count yourself lucky living in today’s times – there used to be some 30+ systems until the IALA group was formed.

IALA-B and IALA-A system

IALA-B and IALA-A system

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