Coast Guard replacing seasonal aids to navigation throughout Great Lakes

9th Coast Guard District NewsCLEVELAND — The 9th Coast Guard District began restoring seasonal Aids to Navigation throughout the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway March 13, 2012, following the resumption of the shipping season.

Operation Spring Restore involves the verification and placement of more than 1,270 ATON, including lighted and unlighted buoys, with an expected completion date of May 28, 2012.

Roughly half of the aids throughout the Great Lakes region are taken out of service during the winter months during Operation Fall Retrieve in order to minimize damage caused by ice and inclement weather, and because of reduced vessel traffic.

The 9th District’s ATON system employs a simple arrangement of colors, shapes, numbers and light characteristics to mark navigable channels, waterways and nearby obstructions, allowing safe vessel passage through the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway and facilitating safe and efficient maritime activity.

In the Great Lakes region, the Coast Guard manages 2,645 federal ATON.

To accomplish this essential mission, the 9th District utilizes six Coast Guard Cutters with ATON capabilities, five ATON teams and five small-boat stations that perform ATON duties. Lamplighters, a civilian group that manages ATON in northern Minnesota; the Canadian Coast Guard; and the St. Lawrence Seaway Corporation also assist.

The Coast Guard Auxiliary helps with verification of privately-owned ATON in the region.

The aids restored during Operation Spring Restore include, but are not limited to:

  • Lighted structures
  • Beacons
  • Day markers
  • Range lights
  • Fog signals
  • Landmarks
  • Buoys (lighted and unlighted)


All have a specific purpose and assist mariners in determining their locations, facilitating safe transit and avoiding danger.

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