Buoys and beacons

Cardinal marks are used to show on which side of the mark it is safe to pass. They may also show where to find the deepest water in an area, a bend or junction in a channel, or mark the end of a shoal. Cardinal marks should be passed on the indicated side of the mark.

Cardinal mark diagram.


When entering a harbour, keep the red marks on your left (port) and green on your right (starboard). When leaving, the opposite applies.

Safe navigation mark - Port. Safe navigation mark - Starboard. Safe navigational marks

These marks show safe navigable channels. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, e.g. a beacon or buoy.





Isolated danger mark. Isolated danger marks

A mark erected on, or moored on or above an isolated danger (such as a rock or reef) which has navigable water all round it.





Special mark. Special marks

These are used to indicate an area of special significance, such as a spoil ground, cable or pipeline, military exercise area or an ODAS (data collection) mark.





Emergency wreck marking buoy. Emergency wreck marking buoy

If you see this buoy in Northland waters it has been deployed to mark a submerged wreck and therefore indicates a serious Hazard to Navigation. At night it is lit by an alternating yellow and blue light. If you see this mark please keep clear and navigate with caution.