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Skip Navigation · Home · Aids to Navigation · Introduction to AtoN


Introduction to AtoN


The national Spanish maritime signaling system is comprised by the marine aids to navigation in Spain that provide service on its coasts and inland waterways, regardless of the entity responsible for their management, maintenance and control.

Lighthouses are part of this national maritime signaling system and currently their operation includes the following points:

  • Lighthouses and maritime signaling: maintain the nautical value of lighthouses as a valid maritime signal for every type of navigator and as a last back-up system in case of a malfunction of the embarkations' electronics systems.
  • Lighthouses and Society: preservation of the historical-technical equity of the lighthouses and their associated equipment, as well as the development of complementary uses that add to the value that these infrastructures have for Society.
  • Lighthouses and New Technologies: a platform for the innovation and development of new technologies, including, among others, the DGPS systems, AIS devices and networks, monitoring and remote control systems and the IATONIS information systems.

THE LIGHT SHOULD NEVER GO OUT. We innovate to contribute to the improvement of navigational safety in a changing global environment. 

The Spanish Constitution, in article 149.1.20, establishes that the State is exclusively responsible for coastal lighting and maritime signals. Since the approval of Law 27/1992, until the recent revised text of the RDL 2/2011, such responsibilities have been exercised through the Public Body Puertos del Estado and the Port Authorities under the management and supervision of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport. 
The responsibilities of Puertos del Estado include the planning, coordination and control of the Spanish maritime signaling system and promoting training, research and technological development in these areas. The coordination of maritime signaling is carried out through the Lighthouse Committee.

In order to exercise these powers, Puertos del Estado has been assigned a series of duties, including the planning, regulation, inspection and control of the operation of the maritime signaling services and the provision of services not attributed to the Port Authorities, as well as acting as the representative of the State Administration in port and maritime signaling matters, on international bodies and committees when such representation is not assumed by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, notwithstanding the responsibilities of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. 

Among its activities, Puertos del Estado drafts regulations and recommendations on Aids to Navigation, always within the framework set by the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA), promotes training, carries out activities aimed at an improved understanding of marine aids to navigation by society, as well as R&D+i projects, such as the peninsular Atlantic grid of AIS devices, a project financed under the Spain/Portugal INTERREG III-A program or participates in projects providing technical assistance to other countries, such as its participation in a European project for the review of aids to navigation in seven areas of Turkey or the technical assistance given to the Maritime and Port Authority of El Salvador on the beaconing of the access channel to the port of La Unión.

It also leads unique projects such as the implementation of the National Network of the Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS) for marine navigation or the Remote Monitoring System for improving the management of aids to navigation in different Port Authorities and AIS devices, especially, regarding the use of these devices as an aid to navigation.

With regard to international presence in Aids to Navigation, Puertos del Estado has been a member of the IALA Council since 1994, currently it holds its Chairmanship and that of such Association for the 2014-2018 period, in addition to being a member of various Technical Committees. It also regularly participates in different forums held by the European Commission, such as the European Maritime Radionavigation Forum (EMRF) related to the global navigation satellite systems or GNSS and, in particular, with the European projects EGNOS and GALILEO.