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Q: History of Coastal Navigation Rules - System A and System B markers. ( Answered,   0 Comments )
Subject: History of Coastal Navigation Rules - System A and System B markers.
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: jamesny-ga
List Price: $50.00
Posted: 24 Jun 2006 06:56 PDT
Expires: 24 Jul 2006 06:56 PDT
Question ID: 740740
How did it arise in history that in the USA, and other systems that
use Lateral System B, vessels entering a harbor leave red buoys on the
right and green buoys on the left but in the UK, and other Lateral
System A countries, it is completely reversed?

Most particularly, there is a story that American revolutionaries
reversed the buoys to scuttle British ships. Others report such a
story in a more recent
war. Could this be true?

Some people have related it to the side of the road on which countries
drive: but the continent of Europe uses Lateral System A like the UK
and it does not seem relevant.

Subject: Re: History of Coastal Navigation Rules - System A and System B markers.
Answered By: webadept-ga on 24 Jun 2006 14:54 PDT

According to the United Nations document titled Guidelines for the
Harmonization of Navigation Rules and Regulations -- Volume 1. Aides
to Navigation:
---"There were more than 30 different maritime buoy age systems in use
worldwide before the IALA Maritime Buoyage System was first agreed in
1976. Many of these systems had rules in complete conflict with one
another. Some used the colour red to mark the port hand side of a
channel and others to mark the starboard side. Many countries adopted
the principle of the lateral system, but some favoured using the
principle of cardinal marks."
It goes on to say that several attempts over the years were made to
create a standard for this confusing array of buoyages systems. The
first of which was initiated by the League of Nations, which resulted
in the recommendations on the Uniform System of Maritime Buoyange.
This convention was called SOLAS (Safety of Life At Sea) and was
convened several times between 1927 and 1930. The SOLAS outcome was
more that 60 articles on ship construction, lifesaving equipment, fire
prevention, fire fighting, telegraphy equipment, navigation aids and
rules to prevent collisions. The last meeting, drafted in Lisbon three
texts, the first regulating signaling at sea, another on manned
lightships an the third dealing with the characteristics of
lighthouses and radio beacons.
Finally in Geneva on the 13th of May, 1936 a harmonized buoyage system as drafted. 
Then ? war broke out with Germany and ruined the whole thing. Only 12
countries agreed to use it, and 28 countries did use it, but it was
not really ratified. After the war new systems started popping up
In 1965, the IALA (International Association of Lighthouse
Authorities), set up an international technical committee to examine
the problem and suggest a solution. This met with very little success
until some disasterous wreck in the Dover Strait occurred in 1971.
Then things got a little more serious.
--"The difficulties faced for this unification were mainly as follows:
$ The use of a lateral or cardinal system
$ Definition of direction
$ The colour green being reserved for wreck marking
$ Diversified buoy shapes
$ Different buoy colours
$ Many special buoys
In view of the different climates, environment, economic and social background and
traditions of different countries, the new system focused on a simple
and easy-to-adopt style. It was believed that carefully maintained
simple devices were more important than badly maintained delicate
devices for mariners. The philosophy used in the formulation of the
system was to use limited types of marks. To meet the conflicting
requirements, it was thought necessary as a first step to formulate
two systems, one using the colour red to mark the port side and the
other using the colour red to mark the starboard side. These were
called System A and System B respectively."
And again from the UN document
---" The rules for System A, which included both cardinal and lateral
marks, were completed in 1976. The rules for System B were completed
in early 1980. System A has been adopted by Africa, most Asian
countries, Europe, the Gulf countries, Australia and New Zealand.
System B has been used by American Continent, Japan, the Philippines
and the Republic of Korea. The two similar systems were combined as
one system with two regions in 1980, Region A and Region B, and the
boundaries of the regions were also agreed. Region A uses the colour
red for port marks and green
for starboard marks. In Region B, these colours are switched to red
for starboard and green for port. All the maritime buoyage systems
were quickly converted to the new IALA system around the world because
it is simple and easy to adopt."
So it would seem that neither of the two theories you brought up have
any basis in fact, since the systems were not in place until 1980.
Some other good references are:
International Association of Lighthouse Authorities
Lateral Mark
History of Safety at Sea
Aids to Navigation
There are no comments at this time.

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