Canadian Coast Guard Aids to navigation program

Our program uses aids to navigation to help mariners confirm their positions, stay inside navigable channels and avoid marine hazards. We use approximately 17,000 short-range aids to navigation, such as:

  • buoys
  • leading marks (ranges)
  • position confirmation lights 

We also maintain a network of 19 Differential GPS stations throughout Canada. They complement regular GPS by comparing the received GPS position with a precisely surveyed position. They broadcast the correction, or augmented position, to users equipped with a DGPS receiver.

Lit range on Lac St-Pierre, St. Lawrence River.

Lit range on Lac St-Pierre, St. Lawrence River.

Services

Our design and review specialists constantly analyse the mix of aids to navigation and consult with users to recommend improvements as needed. Several parties help to keep the buoys and other aids in working condition, such as:

  • contractors
  • government employees
  • Canadian Coast Guard ships and helicopters

We regularly issue navigational warnings (NAVWARNs) to ensure mariners are kept informed of any concerns affecting aids to navigation. Program employees help the Canadian Hydrographic Service update charts and sailing directions by issuing Notices to Mariners. We also monitor water levels in the Fraser and St. Lawrence rivers and keep the channels dredged in some portions to maintain depths as advertised.

Winter ice cover prohibits the use of traditional buoys in some areas, so we replace many of those with winter spars every fall. This allows marine traffic to proceed during the winter months. We use special four-season buoys that remain in the water year-round in some parts of the St. Lawrence river.

Gallery

Daymark and radar reflector near Bellot Strait, Nunavut
Unlit range tower in the Mackenzie River, a short distance from Great Slave Lake, Northwest Territories.
Cap Brûlé pillar in the St. Lawrence River, 25 nautical miles from Quebec City.
St. Lawrence River buoys awaiting to be redeployed, at the Coast Guard base in Quebec City.
Four-season buoy being lowered into the St. Lawrence river.
Starboard bifurcation buoy, near Sarnia.
Aid to navigation, Kootenay Lake, British Columbia.
Cap Race Lighthouse, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Lit range on Lac St-Pierre, St. Lawrence River.
Date modified: