Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Cruise Ship Trivia: Maritime Flags

You can tell a lot about a ship, including cruise ships, just by looking at the flags flown on the mast. In my example photo you can you can tell the owner, location and next planned action of the ship. Interestingly, you cannot tell the country where the ship is registered by looking at these flags.

The picture shows the mast of a cruise ship in port. Beginning on the port (left) side: the leftmost flag is called the house flag and represents which shipping line owns the ship, in this case Royal Caribbean International. The blue flag with the white rectangle just to the right of the house flag is called the Blue Peter. It is the signal flag that represents the letter “P” in the International Marine Signal Flag Alphabet. When flown from the mast it indicates the ship’s intention to sail. The two flags flying from the starboard (right) side of the mast are courtesy ensigns flown to represent the country in whose waters the ship is sailing. The captain may display additional courtesy ensigns for a particular port that the ship is visiting. In this case, the flag of the U.S. Virgin Islands and the United States flag is displayed The national flag of the ship itself is flown from the jackstaff at the stern of the vessel.

The mast in the photo belongs to Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas. It was taken just prior to sailing from Long Bay in Charlotte Amalie Harbor, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands in August 2005.

Photo Credit: Christopher Gould

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