Starboard channel mark

Port and Starboard Channel Markers

Port and Starboard channel markers are internationally recognised  sea marks (buoys) used in maritime pilotage to indicate the edge of a channel.

Each mark indicates the edge of the safe water in a  channel.

Port Channel Marks

Port Channel Mark
Referred to as lateral marks, Port marks are red and have a can shaped topmark.

Colour: Red Buoy
Shape:  Cylindrical (can), pillar or spar Top Mark:  Single red can.
Numbering: Even numbers

LIGHT Colour: Red Rhythm:  If lit it can display: Q.R – continuous quick flashing red light. FL.R .3s- red single flash.(flashes for 1 sec, darkness 2 secs = 3 secs rhythm sequence) L.FL.R – red long flash FL.(2).R – red group flash.

Starboard channel mark
Starboard marks are green and have a cone shaped topmark.

Colour: Green Buoy
Shape:  Conical, pillar or spar. Top Mark:
Single green cone pointing upwards.
Numbering: Odd numbers

LIGHT Colour: Green Rhythm:  If lit can display:Q.G – continuous quick flashing green light.
FL.G.3s green single flash. (flashes for 1 sec, darkness 2 secs = 3 secs rhythm sequence)
L.FL.G green long flash (flash 2 secs or longer)
FL.(2).G green group flash

IALA Buoyage System

The marks are positioned on Australian waterways according to a conventional direction of buoyage which is stipulated in the International IALA Buoyage System A.

NMC IALA Illustration

What it means

When operating on a river, the direction of buoyage will be towards the river’s source, while in contrast when operating on a harbour, the direction of buoyage is into the harbour from the sea. Buoyage direction is labelled on area charts and boating maps. Hence, it is important to understand the direction of buoyage as it determines the side which you should pass the channel mark to stay in deep water within the channel.

Consequently, when you understand the direction of buoyage, the lateral marks and correct side to pass them all make sense.

So, if you are heading in the direction of buoyage, into a harbour, coming in from sea, travelling in an upstream direction towards land, the starboard marks will be on your starboard (right) side. If you are heading against the direction of buoyage, in a downstream direction, going out towards sea the port lateral marks will be on your starboard (right) side.

Lastly, remember:
A boat heading upstream into a harbour, from from sea, wanting to keep in the main channel must: Keep port marks to its port (left) side and pass starboard marks to its starboard (right) side. A boat heading downstream, towards sea wanting to keep in the main channel must: Pass port marks to its starboard (right) side port and keep starboard marks to its port (left) side.


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