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Maritime Flags

September 22nd, 2015 by Piper Smith

The system of International Maritime Signal Flags is based on a code developed by British Admiral Sir Home Riggs Popham and adopted by his navy in 1803. A component of the International Code of Signals (InterCo) first drafted in 1857, later modified at an international conference in 1889 an currently employed by NATO, these signal flags can be used to convey messages between ships or from ship to shore in a variety of manners:

1) Each flag represents a specific letter or number and can be used in conjunction with other to spell out individual words.

2) Each flag has an independent meaning and may be flown individually to convey that message. For Example: “D” flag conveys the message “Keep clear of me, I’m maneuvering with difficulty”. Displaying the “L” flag means the ship is under quarantine, while flying the “J” flag communicates the ship is on fire.

3) Lengthier or more specific messages can be communicated using two and three flag combinations designated in the InterCo code book. Some examples of these include: AN– I need a doctor, AN 1– I need a doctor, I have severe burns, MAB– I request you to make a rendezvous in the position indicated, XGE– I surrender.