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What Color is on the Starboard Side of a Boat? – Beginners Tutorial

Written by Anthony Roberts / Fact checked by Jonathan Larson

what color is on the starboard side of a boat

What color is on the starboard side of a boat? What color is displayed on the port side? The standard codes can be red or green, but that’s not all. Whether you’re trying to find answers for a boating exam or adding navigational lights to your boat, let’s find out more details in the following.

What are Standard Port and Starboard Colors?

  • Green is displayed on the starboard (right side of a ship/boat).
  • Red, on the other hand, is displayed on the port (left side of a ship/boat) for navigational purposes. [Hint: Remember that there are four letters in the word “port” and “left.” Thus, the left side of the boat is “port.”]

Starboards and ports do not change and are independent of someone’s orientation. Instead of the words “left” and “right,” they use such terms as a standard to avoid confusion.

What’s the Color of the Boat’s Port Side Light?

The navigational light’s color on this side of the boat is red.

What Light Color Starboard Side of the Boat?

It is green and will always be green.

What are the Four Sides of a Boat?

There are four nautical or maritime names for the ship or boat’s front, back, left, and right.

  • The starboard is the boat/ship’s right-hand side when looking in a forward direction.
  • The stern, also called the aft, is the ship’s rear section.
  • The bow is the ship’s most forward or front part.
  • The port is the ship’s left-hand side when looking forwards.

What Color on the Starboard Side of Boat? Further Explained


On the starboard side, a boat or ship displays a green navigational light. You’d notice that this green light in combination with other lights are on at night or during a harsh weather condition when visibility is almost impossible.

Such lights on the starboard side of the boat are references and guides for other marine vessels that you encounter in the sea or are near your boat or ship.

At a standard, these green lights are directed at 112.5 degrees angle toward the stern of the vessel.

Green, as a navigational light color for the starboard, is the global standard.

Why Green is the Standard Starboard Side Color?

Close for two centuries now, green’s always been the international standard.

It was the United Kingdom that passed the use of green and red sidelights back in 1849.

Later, the United States and other countries followed and implemented the same rule.

Green is also considered the boat’s safe side, as most steering wheels are on the right-hand side. It is also considered the clear and safe view field for the helmsman.

The red port side, on the other hand, indicates zero or limited visibility, so it’s often called the blindside.

In this case, other boats or ships should turn to the right-hand side. They will stop to avoid colliding with you when they’re facing the port side.

Colors also aid navigation, especially during foggy or night maneuvers.

What to Know About Modern Starboard Lights?

Signal lights for the port and starboard are available for separate purchase, either as individual or pair lights.

They can be mounted on the deck and can come as stainless-steel lights to offer optimal element and moisture protection.

The tinted plastic cover encasing the bulbs help show the red or green light for the vessel’s either side, while offering them better protection. Many of them are 10W on average and are LED for energy efficiency.

How to Remember Starboard and Port?

It won’t take a long time before you can remember which is which.

To stay on the safe side, other sailors use reflective tape on their vessels.

For the others, they use other tricks to remember which port or the starboard is. For example, port, red, and left, and then green, right, and starboard.

Maritime Regulations and Enforcement

The International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea laid down the standard that port (left) and starboard (right) are the official directions on all vessels to prevent untoward incidents and collisions.

To aid in this, color codes are used, considering the poor visibility especially at night, as mentioned earlier.

The terms port and starboard are also essential when transferring messages between boats/ships. They can be used instead of saying that one would be passing right or left of a boat/ship because right and left are vague due to the perspective’s lateral inversion; thus, there can be a higher risk of a collision without these standard terms.

Final Thoughts

Now you know the answer to the question “what color is on the starboard side of a boat.” Just remember, the port side will always be “red,” and the starboard side will always be “green.” These colors have been the standard adopted globally for navigational safety. You also can refer to other accessories like boat jacks or boat rollers and etc by checking it out on above.

We hope that this article has shed light to this important question. Have a safe trip!

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