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Flag colours

Requirements for national colours of flags for Australian ships.

We have a number of requirements relating to the flying of the national colours for Australian ships.

National colours

Description of ship

Red ensign

National flag

Registered ships

Ship that is required to be registered*

Yes

No

Foreign owned ship on demise charter to an Australia based operator

Yes

No

Pleasure craft

Yes

Yes

Fishing vessel

Yes

Yes

Government ship

Yes

Yes

Ship less than 24 metres in tonnage length

Yes

Yes

Small craft** wholly owned by residents of Australia

Yes

Yes

Small craft** solely operated by residents of Australia

Yes

Yes

Unregistered ships

Unregistered ships that are required to be registered*

No

No

Other unregistered ships

Yes

Yes

Times at which a flag is required to be flown

Type of ship

When

Registered ships that are required to be registered*

Foreign ships on demise charter to an Australian based operator

1. Entering, leaving, and underway within any port in daylight

2. While berthed or at anchor in a port during the period commencing 8 o'clock in the morning on a day and ending at sunset on that day

All other ships (except unregistered ships that are required to be registered*)

Entering, leaving, and underway within a foreign port in daylight

*A ship is required to be registered if it is a majority Australian owned commercial or trading ship of 24 metres or more on tonnage length.
**A small craft is one that is less than 12 metres in overall length.

Alternative flags

If you are in Australian waters you can fly an alternative flag when a flag is required to be flown (the relevant times are listed below). However, at those times your ship must be entitled to fly the alternative flag.

The alternative flags are:

  • the British Blue Ensign
    (You can fly this as an alternative flag if a warrant from Her Majesty or the Admiralty was in force authorising its use by the ship before 26 January 1982. Section 73 of the British Merchant Shipping Act 1894 must be in force at the time the ensign is used as an alternative flag, and the flying of the ensign at the relevant time must be authorised by the warrant)
  • a particular flag under the authority of the Flags Act 1953
  • a particular flag of a State or Territory
  • if you are in waters outside Australian waters, no alternative flags are permitted to be flown.

Positions at which a flag is to be flown

The national flag or red ensign must be flown at the stern, or if this is not practicable because of the ship's design or use, as near as practicable to the stern. Where there is no stern, the flag must be flown in a position approved by the registrar.

Only one of the flags mentioned (national flag, red ensign, or an alternative flag) can be flown at any one time.

Last updated: 

Friday 12 January 2018