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Flares are a common safety item you’ll find on just about every boat you encounter. They’re common for a good reason as they’re one of the most effective ways to communicate your location and situation to those in your area. Visible from kilometres away in the form of smoke or bright light, they’re designed to be a visible as possible. They are moderately priced and last for 3 years or more. There are only a handful of manufacturers worldwide and, as a result, there are limited brand options available.

Pains Wessex have become the default standard of flare here in Australia. They’re manufactured in Germany, come in durable and recognisable housings. Easy to use and compact.


Red Hand Flare

These short range distress signals create a very bright red light that will burn for 60 seconds. They’re a SOLAS and USCG approved product. The go-to option suitable for day or night use to pinpoint your location. Visible from 10-12 km during the night and 4-6 km in the daylight.


Orange Hand Smoke

For use during the daytime, these produce a dense orange smoke for 60 seconds. The potential sighting range by day is 4 km, although it can be reduced to less than 1 km in winding, foggy or hazy conditions. These are especially visible from aircraft, even on those windy days.


Parachute Rocket Flare

Your long range signal flare. Designed to withstand exceptional environmental exposure and to perform reliably even after immersion in water. Ejecting a red flare on a parachute 300m into the air, burning for 40 seconds at double the intensity of your standard red hand flare. These can be seen from distances of 15 km during the day and 40 km at night.


Buoyant Smoke

Like the orange hand smoke, but are in the shape of a canister that is designed to float in the water alongside the life raft/vessel instead of being held by hand. These last a lot longer at 3+ mins. Primarily found within life rafts and life boats.





Manoverboard Lifebuoy Marker

Normally mounted to a ship’s bridge wing and attached to a 4 kg lifebuoy. It is automatically or manually deployed to mark the position of a person in the water by day or night. Features a self-activated LED lighting system which last for 2 hours and also provides 15 minutes of dense orange smoke. Ships are required to carry at least two of these.



A self-contained life-throwing appliance within a plastic case. With a quick twist, 250m of 4mm line gets propelled by a rocket. Used from ship to ship, ship to shore or for rescuing a crew member or swimmer in distress.



White flares

Designed to warn other vessels of your position or as a collision warning during the day or night. These are not a distress flare.





Electronic flares

Not yet accepted as a substitute for traditional flares, but these have come a long way in technology and availability. They’re a safe and long lasting solution to visual signalling in an emergency.