About IALA

What is IALA

(International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities)

IALA is a non-profit, international technical association. Established in 1957, it gathers together Marine Aids to Navigation authorities, manufacturers, consultants, and, scientific and training institutes from all parts of the world and offers them the opportunity to exchange and compare their experiences and achievements.

IALA encourages its members to work together in a common effort to harmonise Marine Aids to Navigation worldwide and to ensure that the movements of vessels are safe, expeditious and cost-effective while protecting the environment.

Taking into account the needs of mariners, developments in technology and the requirements and constraints of aids to navigation authorities, a number of technical committees have been established bringing together experts from around the world.

The work of the committees is aimed at developing common best practices through the publication of IALA Standards, Recommendations, Guidelines and Model courses.

This work ensures that mariners have Marine Aids to Navigation which will meet their needs both now and in the future. Thus IALA contributes to a reduction of marine accidents, increased safety of life and property at sea, as well as the protection of the marine environment.

IALA also encourages cooperation between nations to assist developing nations in establishing aids to navigation networks in accordance with the degree of risk for the waterway concerned.


In 1929 the first International Lighthouse Conference was held in the United Kingdom. This was the first of five conferences held before IALA was formally established as an association of lighthouse authorities. The purpose of these conferences was to exchange views on technical developments in marine aids to navigation. When IALA was established in 1957, its first constitution defined its purpose, which was to “Assemble the Lighthouse Authorities of all countries for the discussion of general technical interests ; circulate information regarding Lighthouse Authorities work in the various countries so that improvements introduced in any one of them may be available to the others; encourage, support and make known researches and inventions which are useful to Lighthouse Authorities.” IALA has now done this for almost one hundred years, and therefore, connecting and sharing knowledge between marine aids to navigation stakeholders, must be regarded as one of the primary achievements of IALA.

Since its establishment, IALA has developed several important concepts and systems, such as:

  • The IALA Maritime Buoyage System (IALA MBS)
  • Differential GPS System (DGPS)
  • Automatic Identification System (AIS)
  • VHF Data Exchange System (VDES)
  • Development of Vessel Traffic Services (VTS)

Furthermore, IALA has published more than 250 Standards, recommendations and guidelines, providing guidance on marine aids to navigation services provision and vessel traffic service.