Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary
Volunteer Marine Search and Rescue
January 5th, 2003
January 5th, 2003

CCGA Vessels Authorized to Use Blue Flashing Light

Governor in Council Regulations amending the Collision Regulations came into force on January 30, 2003.

The amendment to Rule 45 of Schedule 1 Part F - Additional Canadian Provisions, Blue Flashing Light allows Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary (CCGA) vessels to exhibit the blue flashing light while on site and engaged in a SAR activity.

On January 30, 2003 Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary vessels were extended permission to exhibit the Blue Flashing Light during SAR operations, as per Rule 45 of the Collision Regulations.

Rule 45 allows a ´government ship´ to exhibit as an identification signal a blue flashing light when providing assistance in a search and rescue operation or when engaged in law enforcement activities. The amendment to this Rule allows CCGA vessels to also exhibit the blue flashing light while engaged in SAR activities.

Rule 45 was amended in response to a request from the CCGA that was fully supported by the Canadian Coast Guard. The CCG felt that the number of SAR incidents to which CCGA vessels respond (approximately 1700 each year) supports and justifies the use of the blue flashing light by CCGA vessels.

Use of the blue flashing light by the CCGA will identify CCGA vessels to other vessel and aircraft operators during SAR operations. It is particularly important during night operations and during searches in poor weather conditions. This issue has arisen on numerous occasions when the distressed vessel had difficulty identifying the CCGA vessel. In addition, other search vessels or aircraft have also had difficulty identifying a CCGA vessel as a search and rescue vessel. This is especially important when an aircraft wants to direct a CCGA vessel towards a stricken vessel.

Guidelines on Use of Blue Flashing Light by CCGA Vessels:

    Strict adherence to the proper use of the blue flashing light is essential. CCGA vessels are only permitted to exhibit the blue flashing light during authorized response to SAR incidents when tasked by the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre/Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre.
    CCGA vessels shall only exhibit the light when the CCGA vessel needs to identify itself while providing assistance to any vessel or other craft, aircraft or person that is threatened by grave and imminent danger and requires immediate assistance.
    CCGA vessels shall only exhibit the light at or near the scene of the SAR incident.
    The blue flashing light is NOT to be exhibited during transit to and from an incident.
    The blue flashing light is NOT a towing light.
    CCGA Vessels no longer involved in SAR operations shall not exhibit the blue flashing light
    It should be noted that the blue flashing light provides no special privileges with respect to rules of the road.
    The blue flashing light is also used as an identification signal by Canadian and United States law enforcement ships when engaged on law enforcement duties. Any misuse of the blue flashing light will not only detract from its effectiveness both as a safety and an enforcement identification signal, but may create confusion, distract vessels or have other serious consequences. Since in the United States, the blue flashing light is only permitted to be exhibited by law enforcement vessels, proper use by CCGA vessels in boundary waters is particularly important.
    Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary vessels are not required to outfit their vessels with a blue flashing light. Installation of the light by CCGA vessels is strictly voluntary and contribution funds are not to be used to purchase these for members´ vessels.
    The change to the regulations will facilitate the identification of CCGA vessels and help auxiliarists carry out SAR operations more effectively.
    Penalties for contravening the Collision Regulations are prescribed in the Canada Shipping Act with fines of up to $2,000 for vessels up to 20m in length.

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