A buoyant start to a 7-year refurbishment programme for Aids to Navigation

09 October 2020

The Challenge

It is a statutory requirement of the Port Authority to provide Aids to Navigation (AtoN) to a standard set by the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA), and regulated by Trinity House and the Northern Lighthouse Board as the General Lighthouse Authorities. Peel Ports Group are progressing a 7-year refurbishment / replacement cycle so that every floating AtoN will be refurbished across a 7-year period to ensure they meet the required standard of condition, visibility and buoyancy. Without the refurbishment programme these AtoN will deteriorate and their quality as Aids to Navigation will become less effective and present hazards. Fixed AtoN are also going through a similar cycle.

Buoys are often necessarily placed in very exposed areas having to withstand heavy seas and weather over their working life. As well as the buoy itself, the mooring attachments under the water are constantly battling with the fierce tides and movement from the waves. If any parts of the mooring become worn then there is risk of the buoy breaking away from its station.

Across our port network, Peel Ports are responsible, as the Local Lighthouse Authority (LLA) for 990 navigation aids, which include buoys, beacons, lighthouses and foghorns.  On the Mersey there are 175, Heysham 24, Manchester Ship canal 283, London Medway 222, Great Yarmouth 87 and Clydeport 199.


Without critical maintenance AtoN could become ineffective either through extensive corrosion, discolouration or through reduced visibility from reduced freeboard from marine growth. Without mooring chain inspection and replacement there is a high risk of buoys breaking free presenting a significant hazard to shipping and small craft.

It’s a major job maintaining these critical assets. We knew we needed a reliable partner to help us achieve our ambitions and we contracted Briggs Marine to do just that; one of the most respected names in the industry, having provided long term management and maintenance services for the MoD, other port authorities, utility companies and, increasingly, offshore wind and hydrocarbon decommissioning projects. 

Briggs were tasked with lifting, inspecting and replacing the buoys as set by our seven year maintenance plan. They’re also on 24/7 emergency call to urgently attend faults such as lantern defects and buoy breakaways.

Briggs’ staff are trained for the task and their large overhaul and storage facilities have the capacity to recondition 300+ navigation buoys per year. As part of this work Briggs lift and inspect up to 45% of our floating navigation aids annually, 10% of which are replaced with new or refurbished buoys.

We are currently in year six of the seven year plan and by the end all the buoys will have been replaced.

Malcolm Duncan AFNI, General Manager Aids to Navigation & Moorings, Briggs Port & Marine, said: “We’re proud to serve Peel Ports and to ensure that through the maintenance of their aids to navigation that they comply fully with safety regulations and meet the industry’s vision of ‘safe, economic and efficient movement of shipping’. Peel Ports embrace this philosophy and so are upgrading their aids with more modern equipment. We’re delighted to be on this journey with them.

Gary Doyle, Group Harbour Master, Peel Ports said: “Our seven year strategy is aimed at ensuring all our customers and cargo are kept as safe as possible. During the period, every one of our floating aids to navigation will have been reviewed and refurbished. This significant investment ensures the security and safety of our services, and allows arriving, departing and visiting ships to feel confident and safe while on the water.