US Coast Guard Retro Reflective Regulations for SOLAS Tape USCG 46 CFR, section 164.018

Where to place Retro-Reflective Material on Life-Saving Appliances

USCG 46 CFR, section 164.018

The United States Coast Guard has established regulations for the placement of retro reflective tape on all lifesaving devices on commercial vessels. The approved tapes are generally referred to as SOLAS (safety of life at sea). The chart below shows the required placement.

From International Maritime Organization (IMO) Resolution A.658(16) – Annex 1

1. LIFEBOATS AND RESCUE BOATSRetro-reflective materials should be fitted on top of the gunwale as well as on the outside of the boat as near the gunwale as possible. The materials should be sufficiently wide and long to give a minimum area of 150 cm2 and should be spaced at suitable intervals (approximately 80 cm from centre to centre). If a canopy is fitted, it should not be allowed to obscure the materials fitted on the outside of the boat, and the top of the canopy should be fitted with retro-reflective materials similar to those mentioned above and spaced at suitable intervals (approximately 80 cm centre to centre). In the case of partially enclosed or totally enclosed lifeboats, such materials should be placed as follows:

.1 for detection by horizontal light beams – at suitable intervals at half the height between the gunwale and the top of the fixed cover; and.2 for detection by vertical light beams (e.g. from helicopters) – at suitable intervals around the outer portion of the horizontal (or comparable) part of the top of the fixed cover;

.3 retro-reflective materials should also be fitted on the bottom of lifeboats and rescue boats which are not self-righting.

retroreflective markings on lifeboats 1retroreflectove markings on lifeboats 2

retroreflectove markings on lifeboats 3

2. LIFERAFTSRetro-reflective materials should be fitted around the canopy of the liferaft. The material should be sufficiently wide and long to give a minimum area of 150 cm2 and should be spaced at suitable intervals (approximately 80 cm from centre to centre) at a suitable height above the waterline, doorways included, if suitable. On inflatable liferafts, retro-reflective materials should also be fitted to the underside of the floor, cross-shaped in the centre. The dimension of the cross should be half the diameter of the liferaft, and a similar cross should be applied to the top of the canopy.
On liferafts which are not equipped with canopies, materials which should be sufficiently wide and long (to give a minimum area of 150 cm2) should be attached to the buoyancy chamber at suitable intervals (approximately 80 cm from centre to centre) in such a manner that they are visible both from the air and from a ship.
retrorefelctive material on liferafts
3. LIFEBUOYSRetro-reflective materials of a sufficient width (approximately 5 cm) should be applied around or on both sides of the body of the lifebuoy at four evenly-spaced points. retroreflective material on life rings
4. BUOYANT APPARATUSBuoyant apparatus should be fitted with retro-reflective materials in the same manner as liferafts without canopies, always depending on the size and shape of the object. Such materials should be visible both from the air and from a ship. (No illustration in IMO Resolution A.658(16))Note that the arrangement described applies to inflatable buoyant apparatus. It is different than illustrated in 46 CFR 160.010 (Figure 160.010-3(p)) for rigid buoyant apparatus and life floats. It is not required to change the retroreflective material arrangement on rigid buoyant apparatus and life floats unless the vessel is certificated under SOLAS for international voyages.
5. LIFEJACKETSLifejackets should be fitted with patches of retro-reflective materials with a total area of at least 400 cm2 distributed so as to be useful for search from air and surface craft from all directions. In the case of a reversible lifejacket, the arrangement should be complied with no matter which way the lifejacket is put on. Such material should be placed as high up on the lifejacket as possible.
retrorefelective material on lifejackets

Retroreflective material arrangements applied by the manufacturer on approved lifejackets have been reviewed and approved and should not be changed, even if the arrangement does not appear to be exactly the same as this illustration.

6. IMMERSION SUITSImmersion suits should be fitted with patches of retro-reflective material with a total area of at least 400 cm2 distributed so as to be useful for search from air and surface craft from all directions.
For an immersion suit that does not automatically turn the wearer face up, the back of the suit should be fitted with retro-reflective material with a total area of at least 100 cm2.
Retroreflective material arrangements applied by the manufacturer on approved immersion suits have been reviewed and approved and should not be changed, even if the arrangement does not appear to be exactly the same as this illustration.
7. GENERAL REMARKS 1. Retro-reflective materials should be such as will meet the minimum technical specification given in Annex 2.2. The illustrations reproduced in this Annex are intended to provide examples from which guidance may be taken when fitting retro-reflective materials in accordance with these guidelines.