International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities

The International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA, previously known as International Association of Lighthouse Authorities) is a non-profit organization founded in 1957 to collect and provide nautical expertise and advice.


IALA brings together representatives of the aids to navigation services of about 80 countries for technical coordination, information sharing, and coordination of improvements to aids to navigation throughout the world. It was established in 1957 to provide a permanent organization to support the goals of the Technical Lighthouse Conferences, which had been convening since 1929. The General Assembly of IALA meets about every 4 years. The Council of 24 members meets twice a year to oversee the ongoing programs.

Four committees maintain work programs established for four year periods:

IALA committees provide important documentation to the International Hydrographic Organization and other international organizations, while the IALA Secretariat acts as a clearing house for the exchange of technical information, and organizes seminars and technical support for developing countries.

Its principal work since 1973 has been the implementation of the IALA Maritime Buoyage System. This system replaced some 30 dissimilar buoyage systems in use throughout the world with 2 major systems. This rationalised system was introduced as a result of two accidents in the Dover Straits in 1971 when the Brandenburg hit the wreck of the Texaco Caribbean off Folkestone and sank although the wreck was accurately buoyed. A short while later the Niki also struck the Texaco Caribbean and sank, despite the wreckage being adequately marked. The combined loss of lives in these two accidents was 51 persons.[1]

Although the international agreement of 1982 implementing a harmonized buoyage system is a major achievemnt for IALA the Organization, through its committees carried out a lot of works in other directions resulting in innovating techniques being adopted all over the work, such as the AIS (Automatic Identification System), DGNSS (Differential Global Navigation System) and many others.

Its future achievement is likely to be the implementation of the e-navigation. e-navigation does not aim at ships being electronically operated but gathering and displaying all navigation information through connected sources of information and harmonized data exchange.

IALA is based near Paris in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France.

Main recommendations

IALA is primarily known for the IALA Maritime Buoyage Systems or sea mark systems that are used in the pilotage of vessels at sea:[2]

Each type of mark has a distinctive colour, shape and possibly a characteristic light.

IALA sea mark regions

The IALA Maritime Buoyage System defines two regions in the world: IALA region A and IALA region B. Region B covers the whole of the Americas, Japan, South Korea and the Philippines, while the rest of the world belongs to the region A.[3]


The text of "Background" section of this article originated from section 125 of the American Practical Navigator, a document produced by the government of the United States of America.

See also

Wikisource has original text related to this article:


  1. "The Mariner's Handbook", Admiralty, UKHO, p206
  2. IALA Maritime Buoyage System
  3. IALA Buoyage Regions A e B, November 1980
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