Published: , Updated:

Questions and answers on the transition to IALA standards for sector lights

Here you will find commonly asked questions and answers to the ongoing work on sector lights. If you have other questions, please see "Contact information". 

Who/what is IALA?

The International Association of Lighthouse Authorities (IALA) is an intergovernmental organization founded in 1957 to collect and provide nautical expertise between members. IALA facilitates the member states to work together to achieve the most harmonized maritime system worldwide. Norway, represented by the Norwegian Coastal Administration, is an important member who contributes actively to this cooperation.

Read more about IALA here

What is the IALA standard on sector lights?

IALA has made a recommendation on how the sectors of a sector light should be organized in order to be intuitive and predictable (IALA Guideline 1041: Sector Lights, 3rd ed.). The Norwegian Coastal Administration has decided to apply to this recommendation and will begin changing the sectors in Norwegian waters during 2019. The work is expected to be finished by the end of 2025.

The principle for the IALA recommendation is that when mariners approach a sector light in a white sector, the sector to starboard shall be green, and the sector to port shall be red. This principle applies whatever direction the mariner is approaching from.

The illustration below shows how the sector classification will be changed by the transition to the IALA standard. The map on the left-hand side shows before, while the map on the right-hand side shows sectors after the transition. Drag the vertical bar back and forth to see the changes. 

Who made the decision to change the sector light classification?

The Norwegian Coastal Administration has chosen to adhere to IALA’s recommendations. The decision was made by the NCA itself.

Are the changes necessary?

Yes, the usefulness of this measure has been thoroughly analyzed. Cost-benefit analyses have shown that the measure is necessary.

When will the work begin?

The work has already begun, but the scope of the activity will increase. The work is planned to be completed by the end of 2025.

Why change the sector lights?

he change will improve predictability for mariners, as we will follow the same principles that have been recommended by IALA.

Mariners will require less time to study navigation charts during night-time voyages. Please note, however, that it will remain important to plan your voyage well and of course to use updated nautical charts when doing so.

Who can I contact to get more information about the work in general or in specific geographic areas?

See the “Contact information” page in the menu on the left. You may also submit general questions by email to

Will the work be carried out at specific hours or dates?

The work in changing the sector lights will be carried out during all hours of the day throughout the year, but the sector lights will only be visible when it is dark. 

Will new navigational aids be established and will they look different compared to those standing there today?

Some navigational aids will be replaced and upgraded. These will differ from the current design. 

The image shows Litus Lux, established in Leiholmsundet south of Smørsundet, outside Grimstad.
The image shows Dirigens Lux
 The image shows Dirigens Mini

Will the sector lights differentiate between types and sizes of vessels?

No, the sector lights will be the same regardless of location or what types or sizes of vessels will be using them. However, in some locations, the Norwegian Coastal Administration has established fairways especially for recreational crafts. 

Will there be more navigational aids than before?

No, but some navigational aids will be moved, removed or modernized to make the service more straightforward and intuitive for mariners. This will facilitate the safety of navigation. However, remember to have up-to-date maps!

Will there be new rules for marine traffic?

The rules will not change, but implementing the IALA standard on sector lights, will provide better predictability when using the sector lights at nighttime. 

If I have a boat or a Boating license (or higher), will the transition to IALA standards result in additional costs for me?

No, this is a part of the Norwegian Coastal Administration’s tasks and responsibilities. Updating your own nautical charts may however incur an expense.

Will this result in new requirements for nautical education?

No, but textbooks and education will include the principle of IALA standards for sector light navigation.

Where and when can I get news updates?

A basis for maritime travel is that everyone ensures that they update their nautical charts. The Coastal Administration also has a service that shows upcoming changes and changes that are about to be made to nautical charts.

Click here for the map service (Norwegian text only)

Will information on the work only be available on the internet?

The Norwegian Coastal Administration will disseminate information about this transition, both to various Norwegian boating magazines and local newspapers and at fairs. Over time, textbooks and classes will include the principle underlying the IALA standard for sector lights.

Will I be monitored in any way?

No, the work will only result in changes to sector lights. 

Will this result in new equipment requirements on board?

No, but mariners must ensure to update charts on board.

What happens if I misinterpret the new sector lights and it leads to an accident? Do I risk severe penalties?

No, you don't risk stricter penalties. Each individual must, however, be diligent in updating their nautical charts and planning their voyage thoroughly. The Norwegian Coastal Administration will not be liable to pay damages in the event of misinterpretation.

Where can I find more information?

Information about the NCA’s transition to the IALA standard for sector lights can primarily be found on these pages. In addition, boating magazines, newspapers, and other media will write about the ongoing transition.

The NCA also has a nautical chart service that shows changes that are upcoming as well as changes that are about to be made to nautical charts. You can find this service here (Norwegian text only).

If you need more extensive information, please see the “Contact information” page in the left menu.

The EFS information service (Etterretning for sjøfarende, or “Information for Seafarers”) will publish our changes on an ongoing basis, as these changes are carried out.