A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

US: Multilple laser pointer attacks on Chesapeake Bay ships

The U.S. Coast Guard reported that multiple ships in the Chesapeake Bay had a laser aimed at them in April and early May 2017. The laser light came from an area between Drum Point and Cove Point in St. Marys County, Maryland:

Laser Chesapeake Bay

The following is from a Coast Guard press release dated May 4 2017:

The Coast Guard is investigating multiple laser strikes during the past month aimed at commercial vessels transiting the Chesapeake Bay and warns the public of this dangerous act.

Four incidences occurred early Wednesday morning between midnight and 3 a.m., involving the motor vessels Salome, Bulk Spain, and AM Annaba. Additionally, a pilot vessel was lased as it was on its way back to the pilot launch.

Three other incidents occurred: Monday around 2 a.m., involving the motor vessel Hoegh Osaka; Sunday at 4 a.m., and involved the cruise ship Carnival Pride and another April 7 at approximately 1 a.m., involving the motor vessel Maersk Kolkata.

During all incidents, the laser light was described as steady, powerful and somewhat painful to the eyes. The reporting source believes the laser originated in the area between Drum Point and Cove Point, and lasted for approximately 15 minutes.

“Laser lights, and other bright lights can be a hazard to navigation,” said Lt. Trish Elliston, Coast Guard Sector Maryland-National Capitol Region. “The most likely scenario is the laser would blind or distract a pilot which would prevent the pilot from seeing a smaller vessel. This could cause a collision or other serious incident in the shipping channel.”

The Laser Safety Act, makes it a misdemeanor to knowingly and willfully cause or attempt to cause bodily injury by shining, pointing, or focusing the beam of a laser pointer on an individual operating a motor vehicle, vessel, or aircraft. The penalty is a maximum 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.

The Coast Guard is working with state and local law enforcement along with Chesapeake Bay Pilots to investigate the incidents. Anyone with information leading to the whereabouts of the individual, or individuals, involved are asked to contact the Coast Guard Sector Maryland-National Capital Region Command Center at 410-576-2525 or via email at cgis-baltimore@uscg.mil.

US: $13,241 in fines, 15 days in jail for Washington state man who aimed at a ferry

On December 27 2016 the U.S. Coast Guard assessed a civil penalty of $9,500 against Mark Raden, 27, for “interfering with the safe operation of a vessel” by aiming a blue laser at a Washington state ferry on October 22 2015. One of the ferry’s officers was said to have burns on his eyelid.

Raden also pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment in Island County Superior Court. He was ordered to serve 15 days in jail, perform 240 hours of community service, pay $3,740.89 in restitution to the master and chief mate, and serve 24 months probation.

On April 26 2016, the Coast Guard issued a civil penalty of $100,000 against Raden. According to a Coast Guard press release at the time, “Coast Guard officials are seeking civil penalties for violation of a safety and security zone as well as interference with the safe operation of the Tokitae [ferry] while it transited between Mukilteo and Clinton [in Washington state]. The final civil penalty amount [which turned out to be $9,500] will be determined by a Coast Guard Hearing Officer in Arlington, Va.”

A Coast Guard spokesperson told Cyrus Farivar of Ars Technica "Originally there were multiple charges that brought the maximum amount to $100,000 [as] referenced in the original [press] release. Ultimately the hearing officer has the final say and chose to only pursue the one charge for 'interfering with the safe operation of a vessel' and assessed a fine of $9,500."

Raden has previously been in trouble for misusing a laser. In July 2015, Raden and his friend Dillon Reisman, 27, were aiming a laser into house windows in Langley, Washington, in order to “cause alarm to anyone trying to sleep.” When confronted by police, Raden repeatedly aimed the laser beam into an officer’s face. Felony charges were not filed until November 18 2015.

In yet another incident, police said Raden was accused of using a laser and acid as weapons.

From the Chronicle, the San Juan Islander and Ars Technica. The original LaserPointerSafety.com story about the incident is here; an updated story with news about Raden’s arrest and the Coast Guard penalty is here. Additional details of Raden’s previous run-ins over misusing lasers can be found in an April 11 2016 HeraldNet story.

US: Blue laser pointer said to injure ferry captain in Washington state

The captains of a Washington state ferry were each hit by blue laser light, aimed at them by a man in his twenties from a passing ferry. The October 22 2015 incident lasted about a minute, and resulted in eye injuries to one of the captains. Also, earlier that same evening, a motorcyclist on Whidbey Island had a blue laser aimed at him while going to the ferry terminal.

This map shows the ferries’ route. The map’s indicated positions of the ferries are from a later time and do NOT show their position during the laser incident.

Washington State ferries map

At about 8:30 pm, the ferry M/V Tokitae (shown below) was approaching the Clinton (Wash.) Ferry Terminal. The captains were at wheelhouses on opposite ends of the 362-foot-long ferry. The one piloting the vessel was hit first, and suffered injuries.

Washington State Ferry MV Tokitae 01

According to Washington State Ferries Port Captain Jay Mooney, the man had “third-degree burns on his eyelid and his vision is still not quite back at 100 percent.” (A first-degree burn occurs only on the surface of the skin. A third-degree burn “extends to all layers of the skin,” according to the Wikipedia “Burn” article.)

The blue laser beam came from the slightly smaller ferry M/V Kitsap, which was traveling in the opposite direction.

Washington State Ferry MV Kitsap 328ft

A Kitsap deckhand had seen two men with the laser, and reported it to a Washington State Patrol trooper after arrival at the terminal in Mukilteo. One man told the officer that “it was a new toy and he was shining it at the water and didn’t mean to shine it at the vessel,” according to a WSP spokesperson. The trooper confiscated the laser pointer, shown here:

Blue laser Washington state ferry

The spokesperson said “This is not a typical laser you’d see in a classroom or office setting.” She referenced the manufacturer’s packaging which says to use safety glasses, to not aim it at faces, and that it could light a match if held on target long enough.

A similar-looking laser sold by Lasers-Pointers.com is said to be 5000 mW (5 watts) and costs less than $200:

Lasers-Pointers dot com 5W blue laser

The two captains exposed to the laser light missed one day of work. The suspect who had the laser has not yet been charged, as of October 29 2015. Prosecutors are determining what charges would be appropriate.

UPDATED - November 9 2015: No arrests have yet been made and no charges have been filed, more than two weeks after a suspect was picked up. This is due in part to determining what jursidiction applied, since the laser incident took place on ferries in waters between different Washington state counties. Another difficulty was determining what charge to file. A KIRO radio story also noted the limitations of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates lasers. While FDA attempts to block some high-powered lasers, imports can get through. And, “there aren't any penalties for buying or owning those illegally high-powered devices, nor are there requirements for training for non-medical, non-industrial devices.” From MyNorthwest.com

UPDATED - April 18 2015: 27-year-old Mark Raden was charged with assault in the third degree, for aiming at the ferry captains. In addition, he has a previous history of run-ins with law enforcement over laser misuse. Details are here.

An analysis of the laser’s power and capabilities is below (click on the “read more” link).

From KOMO News, Q13Fox, the Kitsap Sun and Wikipedia. Ferry drawings and route map from Washington State Department of Transportation website. Laser pointer info from Lasers-Pointers.com.

Click to read more...

US: Coast Guard patrol boat hit by "blue, green laser" in Clearwater

From a U.S. Coast Guard press release dated August 11 2013:

Coast Guard boatcrew targeted with laser near Clearwater, Fla.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A boatcrew from Coast Guard Station Sand Key was targeted with a laser from the shore approximately one mile southwest of Clearwater, Sunday [August 11 2013].

The station informed the station's watchstanders at 10:18 p.m., reporting the 25-foot Response Boat — Small boat crew experienced a three to four second blue, green laser burst while on patrol in the area. The entire crew experienced loss of night vision and half the crew received a direct hit from the laser.

The boat crew had to return to the station and receive eye exams.

Click to read more...

US: Again, laser hits San Diego harbor officer who goes to hospital

For the second time in a month, a green laser pointer was aimed at a San Diego Harbor Police boat, sending an officer to the hospital. On May 23 2012, a young adult partying on the beach pointed a laser pointer at the boat, which was about 1/2 mile offshore. An officer was hit by a “powerful” beam. Ground units scaled down cliffs to apprehend the man. He said he did not realize the hazard and did not know he had done an illegal act. The man was issued a citation for intentionally lasing the boat.

A Harbor Police spokesperson told LaserPointerSafety.com “neither officer was injured in the latest incident” and “the laser used in this incident was much less powerful than the one used” in the May 4 2012 lasing, when two San Diego Harbor Police officers were taken to UC San Diego Medical Center after their boat was lased. One officer was said to have had a temporary injury in one eye.

2012-05 San Diego incident locations
Approximate locations of the lasers (green triangles) and Harbor Police boats (red squares).


From 10news.com

US: UPDATED - San Diego harbor officers injured by laser

Two San Diego Harbor Police officers were injured by a green laser beam, while on routine patrol in Point Loma, at about 8:30 pm May 4 2012.

Officers Jennifer McMaster and Robert Twardy were patrolling near the Shelter Island Fishing Pier when both illuminated directly in their right eye. Twardy said “I noticed that I had a bright spot, like a residual flash that you kind of get when a camera flashes in your eye.” He suffered a “burning sensation”. Both officers were taken to UC San Diego Medical Center.

Twardy said that McMaster had a more direct hit, was in pain, and complained of blindness. She had possible burns to her retinas, and took time off to recover, according to the Los Angeles Times. She will make a full recovery, according to an NBC San Diego story. [See Update 1, at the bottom of this story after clicking the “Read More” link, for more medical information.]
Click to read more...

New Zealand: 60-year-old convicted of shining laser beams at ferries

A 60-year-old New Zealand man was found guilty of four counts of being a criminal nuisance by endangering the public. Bernard Westbrook Long aimed laser beams at Interisland ferries in the Tory Channel of Cook Strait on September 22 and October 12 2007. He was sentenced to 300 hours of community service.

bernard westbrook long laser
300 hours of community service for shining lasers on ferries


The judge said that while Long could have caused “significant” harm, he no longer lived in a house overlooking the channel, so “the chance of reoffending was unlikely.”

From the Marlborough Express. There are additional stories about Long’s guilty plea from the New Zealand Herald; about prosecutors being upset due to Long being given bail despite having “an arsenal” of 30 guns, also from the New Zealand Herald; and about the trial where the defense said persons other than Long were using the laser, from the Marlborough Express.

US, China: Chinese warship used light to attack US spy ship

A secret cable newly-revealed by WikiLeaks states that a U.S. survey ship was attacked for 30 minutes by a Chinese warship aiming a bright white narrow-beam light. The March 8 2008 incident took place in the East China Sea. According to the U.S. State Department cable, “the light was of such intensity that it temporarily impaired the visual acumen of USNS Victorious personnel and thereby constituted a hazard to navigation.”

Condoleeza Rice, Secretary of State at the time, sent the cable to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. Rice said that China’s actions were “provocative and inconsistent” with the law of the sea” and “constitute serious harassment and elevate the risk of miscalculation.”

Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz, who broke the story, was unable to find out whether the light was a laser or a high-powered searchlight. Gertz also pointed to parallels with the 1997 suspected laser use by the Russian merchant ship Kapitan Man.

From the Washington Times

Analysis: Based on the color, LaserPointerSafety.com believes it is a conventional light. To produce a white light beam with lasers requires superimposition of three or more single-color lasers. This is more difficult than using a single-color laser, and would not provide any significant benefit in a situation such as the ship attack. (If countermeasure anti-laser goggles are being used, then it may be beneficial to use multiple wavelengths. It is more difficult to defend against multiple wavelengths, and doing so would reduce conventional visibility since red, green and blue light would all be blocked. Even here, balancing the wavelengths to produce a “white” light is not necessary.)