A searchlight is a crucial piece of equipment on any commercial vessel that operates at night, but often gets overlooked. Imtra’s Northeast Commercial Sales Manager, Nate Cabral, explains the key factors to consider so that you get the best searchlight for your vessel.

What are you lighting up?

It may seem obvious, but knowing the exact distance and area you need to illuminate with your searchlight is the main determining factor in what size searchlight your vessel requires. Searchlights are available with ranges anywhere between a few hundred feet and 4+ miles, so knowing what range you require will determine the size & power of searchlight you’ll need. It’s also important to know if your vessel is in a class that has regulations regarding the power of searchlights. For example, towing vessels that are subject to Subchapter M are required to have a searchlight that is controllable from the operating station and capable of illuminating objects at a distance of at least two times the length of the tow.

What power sources are available on your vessel?

The power source for your searchlight is another important factor in determining which searchlight is best for you. Smaller searchlights are typically available in 12VDC or 24VDC while larger, more powerful searchlights are often available with only AC power, either 110V or 220V. If your vessel requires a powerful searchlight but only has DC power available, you may need to add power converters and ensure you have enough battery power to run the light, which can add cost to the installation.


Where will you physically mount the searchlight?

Mapping out the exact mounting location of the searchlight is also important to make sure it is free of any obstructions. That includes anything that would obstruct the beam of light as well as any space restrictions with other equipment in the way of mounting the searchlight. It’s often mounted in the same area as radars, deck lights and fire pumps, among others, so it’s important to make sure the searchlight isn’t going to interfere with any of those other essential pieces of equipment, and vice versa.

How do you want to control the searchlight?

There are typically two options for controlling your searchlight: A manual handle penetrating into the wheelhouse, or with an electronic control panel with buttons or a joystick, and there are pros & cons to each. Of course, the cabin-controlled manual handle isn’t an option if the light isn’t mounted directly on top of the wheelhouse where the operator can reach it. However, if it is, many operators prefer this manual style because of the instant feedback and intuitive control of simply using your hand to move the light.

The electronic control panel offers more flexibility for the mounting location of the light, and can also allow the light to be operated from multiple locations with the installation of additional control panels. We all know that the real estate on a console is limited, so being able to install where convenient to the user is a plus. But keep in mind, electronic control panels come with the risk of losing connection to the light or other electrical failures that a manual handle wouldn’t be subject to.

Considering all the above factors before pricing out a searchlight system will go a long way in narrowing down the options and making the best choice for your vessel. For more information feel free to contact Imtra or check out our catalog for commercial lighting products.