During its General Assembly last year in Incheon, South Korea, the International Association of Lighthouse and Marine Aids to Navigation Authorities (IALA) established the first World Marine Aids to Navigation Day on July 1, 2019, with the theme of “Successful Voyages, Sustainable Planet.”Maintaining aids to navigation (ATON) is the U.S. Coast Guard’s oldest mission. With the ninth law it passed, the Congress created the U.S. Lighthouse Establishment to provide “support, maintenance and repairs of all lighthouses, beacons, (and) buoys.” Later called the U.S. Lighthouse Service or Bureau of Lighthouses, the service safely guided mariners into U.S. ports for 150 years before becoming a part of the Coast Guard in 1939.

Today, Coast Guardsmen on 68 cutters and at 63 ATON teams maintain more than 48,000 buoys, beacons and electronic aids that help mariners to safely navigate more than 25,000 miles of waterways and facilitate more than $5.4 trillion in economic activity every year.

This complex and critical mission doesn’t stop at our water’s edge. In addition to managing the U.S. Aids to Navigation System, the Coast Guard has shaped global navigation guidelines and policies at IALA since it was established in 1957. Coast Guard personnel from the Office of Navigation Systems, Office of Shore Forces, Navigation Center, Waterways Operations Product Line, and Office of Enterprise Architecture and Technology Innovation serve as members and elected leaders on the IALA Council, ATON Regulations and Management Committee (ARM), eNav Information Services and Communications Committee (ENAV), ATON Engineering and Sustainability Committee (ENG), and Vessel Traffic Services Committee (VTS).

This partnership and involvement with IALA ensures that the Coast Guard, America’s multimission maritime service, maintains its storied legacy of light by working with its international partners to make waterways safer, more efficient and more resilient.

All Coast Guard ATON professionals past and present celebrate this milestone day and recognize the critical role of safeguarding the U.S. Maritime Transportation System for all mariners.

Editor’s note: The content of this blog originally appeared in an official message to Coast Guard members on July 1, 2019. It was edited for Coast Guard Maritime Commons and posted by Lt. Amy Midgett. The original message is available here.

David Krapf has been editor of WorkBoat, the nation’s leading trade magazine for the inland and coastal waterways industry, since 1999. He is responsible for overseeing the editorial direction of the publication. Krapf has been in the publishing industry since 1987, beginning as a reporter and editor with daily and weekly newspapers in the Houston area. He also was the editor of a transportation industry daily in New Orleans before joining WorkBoat as a contributing editor in 1992. He has been covering the transportation industry since 1989, and has a degree in business administration from the State University of New York at Oswego, and also studied journalism at the University of Houston.