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Nautical Flags and Their Meanings - Multiple Flags

Here are some examples of messages using more than one signal flag:

  • One-flag signals are urgent or very common signals
  • Two-flag signals are mostly distress and maneuvering signals
  • Three-flag signals are for points of the compass, relative bearings, standard times, verbs, punctuation, also general code and decode signals
  • Four-flags are used for geographical signals, names of ships, bearings, etc
  • Five-flag signals are those relating to time and position
  • Six-flag signals are used when necessary to indicate north or south or east or west in latitude and longitude signals
  • Seven-flags are for longitude signals containing more than one hundred degrees.

A complete manual, published by the Maritime Safety Office of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, can be found here.

Flags below are shown horizontally, but are displayed vertically.

Multiple Flags Signal Codes

Code Flags Meanings
A+C   I am abandoning my vessel
A+E    I must abandon my vessel
A+F    I do not intend to abandon my vessel
A+G    You should abandon your vessel as quickly as possible
A+H    You should not abandon your vessel
A+L    I have a doctor on board
A+M    Have you a doctor?
A+N    I need a doctor
A+N+1       I need a doctor; I have severe burns
B+F    Aircraft is ditched in position indicated and requires immediate assistance
B+P    Aircraft is coming to participate in search
B+R    I require a helicopter urgently
C+B    I require immediate assistance
C+B+6       I require immediate assistance, I am on fire
C+J    Do you require assistance?
C+K    Assistance is not (or is no longer) required by me (or vessel indicated)
C+P    I am proceeding to your assistance
C+V    I am unable to give assistance
C+W    Boat/raft is on board
C+Z    You should make a lee for the boat(s)/raft(s)
D+D    Boats are not allowed to come alongside
D+V    I am drifting
D+X    I am sinking
E+D    Your distress signals are understood
E+F    SOS/Mayday has been canceled
E+L    Repeat the distress position
E+L+1       What is the position of vessel in distress?
E+P    I have lost sight of you
E+X    My position is doubtful
E+Y    I am confident as to my position
F+A    Will you give me my position?
F+E    I am proceeding to the position of accident at full speed
F+N    I have lost all contact with vessel
F+O    I will keep close to you
G+A    I cannot continue to search
G+B    You should stop search and return to base or continue your voyage
G+F    I have found vessel/aircraft in distress in lat... long...
G+M    I cannot save my vessel
G+N    You should take off persons
G+N+2       I will take off persons
G+O    I cannot take off persons
G+Q    I cannot proceed to the rescue owing to weather. You should do all you can.
G+W    Man overboard. Please take action to pick him up
G+Z    All persons saved
G+Z+1       All persons lost
H+M    Survivors are in bad condition. Medical assistance is urgently required
H+W    I have collided with surface craft
I+B+1       My vessel is seriously damaged
I+M    I request to be escorted until further notice
I+N    I require a diver
I+R    I am engaged in submarine survey work (underwater operations). Keep clear of me and go slow.
I+T    I am on fire
J+B    There is danger of explosion
J+G    I am aground; I am in dangerous situation
J+H    I am aground; I am not in danger
J+I    Are you aground?
J+L    You are running the risk of going aground
J+M    You are running the risk of going aground at low water
J+W    I have sprung a leak
K+F    I require a tug (or... (number) tugs)
K+K    Towing is impossible under present weather conditions
K+N    I cannot take you in tow
K+P    You should tow me to the nearest port or anchorage
L+I    I am increasing speed
L+J    I am reducing speed
L+N    Light (name follows) has been extinguished
L+O    I am not in my correct position (To be used by a lightship)
L+R    Bar is not dangerous
L+S    Bar is dangerous
L+X    The canal is clear
L+Y    The canal is not clear
L+Z    The channel/fairway is navigable
M+B    You should keep in the center of the channel/fairway
M+C    There is an uncharted obstruction in the channel/fairway. You should proceed with caution
M+F    Course to reach me is ...
M+G    You should steer course ...
M+O    I have struck a shoal or submerged object (lat... long...)
M+S    My vessel is a dangerous source of radiation
M+Y    It is dangerous to stop
N+A    Navigation is closed
N+C    I am in distress and require immediate assistance
N+D    Tsunami (phenomenal wave) is expected. You should take appropriate precautions
N+E    You should proceed with great caution
N+F    You are running into danger
N+G    You are in a dangerous position
N+O    Negative"No" or "The significance of the previous group should be read in the negative"
N+T    What is your draft?
O+H    You should switch on your radar and keep radar watch
O+I    I have no radar
O+K    Acknowledging a correct repetition or "It is correct"
O+S    There is danger from mines in this area (or area indicated)
P+D    Your navigation lights are not visible
P+H    You should steer as indicated
P+H+1       You should steer towards me
P+K    I cannot steer without assistance
P+M    You should follow in my wake (or wake of vessel indicated)
P+O    You should pass ahead of me (or vessel indicated)
P+P    Keep well clear of me
P+S    You should not come any closer
Q+C    You should wait until high water
Q+C+1       You should wait until low water
Q+D    I am going ahead
Q+F    I cannot go ahead
Q+I    I am going astern
Q+K    I cannot go astern
Q+O    You should not come alongside
Q+Q    I require health clearance
Q+T    You should not anchor. You are going to foul my anchor
Q+U    Anchoring is prohibited
Q+X    I request permission to anchor
R+A    My anchor is foul
R+B    I am dragging my anchor
R+L    You should stop your engines immediately
R+M    My engines are stopped
R+P    Landing here is highly dangerous
R+S    No one is allowed on board
R+T    Stop carrying out your intentions and watch for my signals
R+U    Keep clear of me; I am maneuvering with difficulty
S+B    I am proceeding to the position of accident
S+C    I am underway
S+D    I am not ready to get underway
S+G    My present speed is... (number) knots
S+M    I am undergoing speed trials
S+O    You should stop or heave to
S+T    What is your cargo?
S+Z    Total number of persons on board is...
T+P    Fishing gear has fouled my propeller
T+V    Fishing in this area is prohibited
T+Z    Can you offer assistance?
U+H    Can you lead me into port?
U+L    All vessels should proceed to sea as soon as possible owing to danger in port
U+M     The harbor is closed to traffic
U+O    You must not enter harbor
U+P    Permission to enter harbor is urgently requested. I have an emergency
U+S+4       Nothing can be done until weather moderates
U+W    I wish you a pleasant voyage
V+L    Tropical storm (cyclone, hurricane, typhoon) is approaching. You should take appropriate precautions
W+E    Navigation channel is being kept open by icebreaker
W+W    What are the sea conditions in your area (or around lat... long...)?
X+P    I am (or vessel indicated is) stopped in thick fog
X+R    Weather is good
X+R+1       Weather is bad
Y+C    Wind force expected is Beaufort Scale... (numerals 0-12)
Y+K    I am unable to answer your question
Y+N    Cancel my last signal/message
Y+U    I am going to communicate with your station by means of the International code of signals
Y+Y    I wish to communicate by VHF radiotelephony on channel indicated
Y+Z    I'm going to spell a word with my next set of flags
Z+E    You should come within visual signal distance
Z+H    Exercise had been completed
Z+L    Your signal has been received but not understood
Z+S    My vessel is "healthy" and I request free pratique
Z+W    I require Port Medical Officer
Medical Signal Codes
(Three-letter signals beginning with "M" are the Medical Signal Codes. Just a few shown here... many more are listed in the International Code of Signals Manual)
M+A+A       I request urgent medical advice
M+A+B        I request you to make rendezvous in position indicated
M+A+C       I request you to arrange hospital admission
M+A+D       I am . . . (indicate number) hours from the nearest port
M+A+O       General condition of the patient is good
M+A+P       General condition of the patient is serious


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