LED Boat Lighting for Commercial Fishing Boats

The commercial fishing industry is a demanding and dangerous arena where the risks are as high as the rewards. Often working around the clock and dealing with some of the worst weather conditions possible, commercial fishermen know well the importance of having reliable equipment that can stand up to the most abusive environments and continue operating without fail. With fishing operations very often taking place at night, illumination is one of those pieces of equipment that plays a critical role in safety and productivity that cannot be compromised on.

Commercial fishing vessels typically employ HID lighting systems in the form of high pressure sodium fixtures on their working decks. Powerful and efficient, these lighting systems have provided an adequate if only just so form of lighting that’s been the standard for many years. Since these vessels are far offshore for extended periods and must rely on self contained sources of power, efficiency and power are key factors in determining the type of lighting to be used, and to date HPS systems have been the most practical.

Two of the biggest drawbacks with HPS lighting on commercial fishing vessels have been their very poor light quality and sensitivity to moisture. The light produced by a HPS lamp has a distinct orange/reddish coloration that produces poor contrasting and color reproduction, reducing visual acuity for those on the deck. HPS bulbs also run very hot, and any exposure to moisture while in operation can easily cause a bulb to shatter or even violently explode, and given the fact that these vessels are exposed to some of the wettest marine conditions possible, happens all too often. Despite all this, HPS systems have remained popular due to the long lifespan of the bulbs and their very high luminous efficiency on the order of 120 lumens per watt. The less energy consumed by lighting, the less fuel that is burned during operations, improving the amount of time a vessel can remain at sea pulling in catches and reducing the costs associated with fuel.

Modern lighting technologies however are changing all this and providing some distinct advantages that many commercial fishing operators are already capitalizing upon. In particular, LED lighting systems have come to the fore that offer to provide the durability and efficiency a fishing vessel needs, and not only this, but provide much better performance than the old HPS systems they are replacing. To why this is let’s look at some stats regarding the two types of lighting and how they stack up against each other.


Lumens per watt produced by HPS systems averages 120 lumens per watt and is one of the most efficient forms of lighting available.

Color temperatures for HPS range around 200 Kelvin, putting them below incandescent bulbs and resulting in light output with a distinct reddish/orange coloration. HPS renders colors poorly, has poor contrasting qualities, and is generally used in applications where these qualities are not considered very important such as street and parking lot lighting applications.

Bulb life for HPS lamps average 20-40,000+ hours of operational life and are among the longest lived light sources available. However, HPS lamps are prone to a phenomena known as “cycling” wherein as the bulb ages, it becomes harder for the ballast to maintain a high enough voltage to keep the lamp lit. Eventually the voltage needed to keep the bulb lit exceeds the ballasts maximum capacity, and the bulb goes out. Once the bulb cools down less voltage is needed to relight it, and the lamp comes back on. This cycle continues until the bulb fails entirely.

HPS bulbs are quite fragile since they are made of glass and become extremely hot while in operation. As a result, they require extensive protection in the form of heavy duty housings, extensive sealing, and vibration absorbing mounting assemblies in order to survive the harsh conditions of the marine environment. As little as a single drop of water contacting a hot HPS bulb is enough to cause it to fail explosively. Because of this, HPS lighting systems require frequent maintenance and inspection to prevent failures.


LED lighting averages 60 to 100 lumens per watt and is tied with fluorescent lighting for second place in the efficiency category.

Color temperatures for LED lights varies according to configuration and can be set at a specific parameter. LEDs are available in 2700K, 4500K, 5000K, 6000K, and higher color temperatures. LEDs used for commercial fishing applications are typically in the 4500K to 6000K range and as a result produce a very sharp white colored light. Additionally, LEDs provide very good contrasting and good color rendering, making them well suited to applications where high visual acuity is critical.

LED lamp life averages 50,000+ hours, and many fixtures are available which can reach 100,000 hours of operating life. Additionally, as LEDs age they do not experience significant changes in operation. LEDs simply grow dimmer over time, and most manufacturers consider LEDs to have reached the end of their useful life when they drop to 70% of their original lumen output.

LEDs are a solid state form of lighting that is highly durable and versatile. They have no glass and so can’t fail from shattering, and don’t run hot and so aren’t as likely to fail from exposure to minor amounts of water. LEDs are highly resistant to damage form impacts and vibrations as well, making them well suited to applications where rough handling and abusive conditions are encountered.

LEDs offer commercial fishing operators a lighting alternative that can provide highly efficient operation coupled with far better light quality than HPS systems. The light they produce is whiter and more intense with better contrasting and color reproduction, which in turn helps with visual acuity during the performance of complex tasks. LED boat light fixtures are also far more durable than HID systems, and are able to withstand rough handling that would cause premature failure of an HPS fixture.

Overall speaking, commercial fishing operators can improve the safety and productivity on their decks without compromising on lighting efficiency. More reliable, better performing, and more durable, LED boat lights represent a step up from old style HPS systems that’s hard to beat.