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04/30/12 LED Boat Lights in Commercial Fishing Operations

Article- April 2012 By Larson

High Intensity LED Boat Light

Larson Electronics High Intensity LED Boat Light 20640 lumens

Fishing is not only a very popular sport and pastime, it is also a huge industry with profits reaching into the billions of dollars annually. Because of the globally high demand for fresh fish and the huge profits to be made, commercial fishing while potentially lucrative, is also one of the most demanding industries as well. Much has been made of the rigors and dangers associated with commercial fishing, with television shows and documentaries airing the grueling and oftentimes dangerous voyages these commercial fisherman undertake on a regular basis.

Many of the more commercially profitable species of sea life reside in waters and climates where the normal dangers aboard a commercial fishing vessel are compounded many-fold by the rough waters and unpredictable weather. Commercial fishing is indeed one of the most dangerous occupations in the world today, as a result there is a great deal of emphasis on improving safety in the commercial fisheries. Currently, one of the areas where the emphasis on safety is producing serious improvements is in deck illumination and the switch to LED boat light technology.

Because of the demands and dangers commercial fishing vessels regularly face as a normal matter of course, a lot of emphasis is placed upon shipwide and deck safety. Although long established procedures and practices have some effectiveness in reducing the number of accidents and injuries that occur, newer modern advancements hold the potential to further improve safety in many ways. Closed circuit cameras, LED boat lights, and wireless communications just to name a few, have helped immensely in improving the state of preventative safety in the commercial fishing industry. Being able to closely monitor activities is crucial for spotting problems before they can escalate into accidents, and improving the ability to identify and correct them preemptively is key.


Of all the areas on a commercial fishing boat where the potential for accidents and injuries is high, it is on the main operating deck where this potential is probably greatest. With the high activity levels, heavy equipment, fast pace, and oftentimes poor environmental conditions that are present on the main decks, the mix of all these factors can prove a challenging combination to manage safely. Of all the factors that have a significant impact on crew safety while working on deck, visibility is one of the most important, and also one of the most frequently impacted. Storms, heavy seas, fog, ice and rain, as well as constantly moving equipment, can make it difficult for skippers and deck hands to effectively monitor operations, and when operations continue into the hours darkness, this problem is only further compounded.

Good visibility is critical to deck safety. It is vital that the skipper be able to monitor the crew while they work the pots and hauling station. Deck hands must be able to quickly and easily view controls and the movement of equipment. During storm conditions or under nighttime hours of operations, visibility can be severely hampered, and when the skipper and crew cannot easily view every aspect of operations, accidents are going to happen. In order to maintain safe operations as well as high productivity levels, it is very important that decks be very well illuminated. Powerful illumination ensures that even during the darkest hours of night or under bad storm conditions, it will be possible to maintain operations at a fast pace while still allowing skippers to effectively monitor every person on deck as they go about their jobs. However, illuminating the decks on a commercial vessel brings with it some additional challenges in the form of lighting durability, power and efficiency that must be addressed if deck lighting is to truly be effective.


On the large deck of commercial fishing vessels, illumination has usually been provided by HID lighting in the form of low pressure sodium and metal halide lamps placed strategically on masts and structures well above operations areas. These lights have had the benefit of being very efficient fairly long lived, which has served to help keep the cost of their operation down. However, these HID lighting sources are really not ideal for boating applications for several reasons. Perhaps one of the biggest drawbacks with low pressure sodium lights is the very poor color quality of the light they produce. These are the same lamps you commonly see used in parking lots and produce light that is deeply reddish in color. They do not bring out colors accurately, and have poor contrasting and detail rendering characteristics as well. On fishing boats where good visibility is key to safety and productivity, this can have detrimental effects.

With the introduction of LEDs into the commercial marine lighting markets, fleet operators have begun realizing serious improvements over their old HID lighting systems. LED boat lights produce a much whiter and cleaner light, with greatly improved color rendering and contrasting capabilities compared to the low pressure sodium lighting they are replacing. The improved light quality of LED boat lights means skippers and crew can more easily monitor operations and make better decisions based on improved visual acuity. They can see better under adverse conditions, and with better contrasting and truer color rendering, more clearly make out important fine details. LED boat lights can oftentimes operate even more efficiently than older HID boat lighting systems, and they have a much longer operational life as well, which adds up to beneficial improvements in operating costs.


LEDs provide additional benefit through greatly improved durability and reliability as well. Although HID lighting systems are more durable than filament based incandescent lighting systems, they still utilize glass and gases in their design which makes them susceptible to breakage and shattering. They operate at high temperatures, and in a marine environment where water and dampness is commonly encountered, failure rates can be high as water comes into contact with hot glass bulbs and causes shattering, blowouts and lamp failures. LEDs however are solid state in design and run very cool compared to other lighting types. They are not adversely affected by abrupt temperature changes, and are easily sealed against contact with water and dampness. They have no glass to shatter, and can easily withstand the pounding and vibrations common to a commercial fishing vessel.

Overall, something as simple as replacing outdated low pressure sodium deck lighting with high power LED boat lights offers the ability to improve safety and productivity over a wide range of measures without any need for major changes to anything else be it wiring or controls. They are cost effective, powerful, produce higher quality light, and above all, improve the ability of skippers to ensure the safety and continued productivity of their crews.

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