What are the differences between beacons and buoys?

April 1, 2023

Polyethylene Buoys

The maritime industry is seeing an increasing demand both by tourism and trade. But sailing on the ocean can be dangerous without proper navigation aids. You may come across severe weather conditions, collisions, and other disasters at sea. Hence, you should always be equipped with proper gear for navigation purpose. Beacons and Polyethylene Buoys are two commonly used navigational aids required for mariners at sea.

However, beacons and buoys serve different purposes for mariners. Given below is a detailed explanation of these two objects:


Beacon is different from a polyethylene buoy in terms of their function and purpose.

  • Beacon is a navigation tool that guides ships through critical circumstances, dangerous passages, channels, or other obstacles such as reefs or rocks. There are often times when vessels do not have a clear view of the surroundings while sailing on the sea due to weather conditions such as fog, darkness, or other situations, which increase the probability of an accident or a collision.
  • Beacons installed with visual aids are helpful for emergency situations, like navigating through constrained or narrow or dangerous areas, such as a channel or harbour entrances. These markers are carefully positioned to give mariners a clear, recognizable reference point that can be seen from a great distance.
  • Beacons as/with visual aids help mariners who have lost their way to get on the right track. In addition, it can also be used as a communicative device for them to stay notified about the weather condition, navigational hazards, and many more.
  • Beacons with visual aids are generally located onshore like a lighthouse that navigates ships. It uses light beams to indicate the direction. But there are also unlit offshore beacons, for example, radio bacon that transmits waves of radio signals.
  • There are different types of beacons, including emergency position-indicating radio beacons (EPIRB), personal locator beacons (PLB), automatic identification system beacons (AIS), etc. Polyethylene Buoys installed with automatic identification system (AIS) is also very useful.

    BuoysHere are some of the exclusive features of buoys:

  • Navigational Buoys are generally smaller in size when compared to Beacons. They are made of durable materials to be able to withstand harsh marine environments, such as steel, polyethylene, aluminium, etc.
  • Buoys are particularly useful when navigating through an area with submerged hazards or where the water depth is shallow, such as a reef or sandbar. They provide a reference point for mariners to avoid these hazards and stay within a safe navigable water. Buoys can also be used to mark the location of fishing grounds or other important points of interest.
  • Polyethylene buoys are a significant device for sailors. These markers float on the water to indicate various points, such as a channel, a submerged object, or a fishing ground.
  • Buoys are anchored or float freely above the water. They are painted with bright colors to make mariners easily notice them from a distance. Some buoys are lit with navigation LED Lights or other markings that help mariners avoid any emergency situations.

    Conclusion:As can be observed from the above discussion, although both beacons and buoys are used in guiding ships and navigation purposes, they are different when it comes to functionality and purpose. Polyethylene buoys are sturdy and used as floating markers to pinpoint fishing points and warn mariners of danger and boundaries while beacons can help with guiding and keeping them aware of rocks, narrow passages, etc.

    Note: This article is for reference only. Any copyright issues or intellectual property related matters (if any are involved and not made known to Wealth Marine), such accountability and responsibility shall be passed on to the writer of the articles

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