A civil ensign is an
ensign An ensign is the national flag flown on a vessel to indicate nationality. The ensign is the largest flag, generally flown at the stern (rear) of the ship while in port. The naval ensign (also known as war ensign), used on warships, may be diff ...
used by civilian vessels to denote their
nationality Nationality is a Identity document, legal identification of a person in international law, establishing the person as a subject, a ''national'', of a sovereign state. It affords the state jurisdiction over the person and affords the person the p ...
. It can be the same or different from the state ensign and the naval ensign (or war ensign). It is also known as the merchant ensign or merchant flag. Some countries have special civil ensigns for
yacht A yacht is a sail or power vessel used for pleasure, cruising, or racing. There is no standard definition, so the term applies to such vessels that have a cabin with amenities that accommodate overnight use. To be termed a , as opposed to a , su ...
s, and even for specific yacht clubs, known as yacht ensigns. Most countries have only one national flag and ensign for all purposes. In other countries, a distinction is made between the land flag and the civil, state and naval ensigns. The British ensigns, for example, differ from the flag used on land (the
Union Flag The Union Jack, or Union Flag, is the de facto national flag of the United Kingdom. Though no law has been passed officially making the Union Jack the national flag of the United Kingdom, it has effectively become the national flag through prec ...
) and have different versions of plain and defaced Red and
Blue Blue is one of the three primary color, primary colours of pigments in painting and traditional colour theory, as well as in the RGB color model, RGB colour model. It lies between Violet (color), violet and green on the optical spectrum, spectr ...
ensigns for civilian and state use, as well as the naval ensign (
White Ensign The White Ensign, at one time called the St George's Ensign due to the simultaneous existence of a cross-less version of the flag, is an ensign worn on British Royal Navy ships and shore establishments. It consists of a red St George's Cross ...
) that can also be used by yachts of the Royal Yacht Squadron.

Countries having specific civil ensigns

The civil ensigns that are different from the general national flag can be grouped into a number of categories.

Civil ensigns with the national flag in the canton

Several countries use red flags with, in most cases, either the respective national flag or the Union Flag in the canton, patterned after the Red Ensign.
British overseas territories The British Overseas Territories (BOTs), also known as United Kingdom Overseas Territories (UKOTs), are fourteen territories all with a constitutional and historical link with the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and N ...
fly the plain Red Ensign or a Red Ensign with the respective colonial arms in the fly.
Saudi Arabia (Shahada) , national_anthem = "National Anthem of Saudi Arabia, " "National Anthem of Saudi Arabia" , image_map = Saudi Arabia (orthographic projection).svg , capital = Riyadh , coordinates = , largest_city = Riyadh , official_languag ...
puts its national flag in the canton of an otherwise-green flag (the Saudi Arabian flag is hoisted with the flagpole to its right so the canton is in the upper right corner of the flag). Ghana stopped using its Red Ensign in 2003 with the adoption of a new merchant shipping act, which made the Flag of Ghana, Ghanaian flag the proper national colors for Ghanaian ships. Similarly, Sri Lanka stopped using its Red Ensign in 1969 and uses the Sri Lankan flag as the civil ensign. Under the relevant shipping law for the Solomon Islands, the Shipping Act 1998, (No. 5 of 1998), the national flag of the Solomon Islands and not a Red Ensign is the appropriate flag: "The National Flag of Solomon Islands shall be the national colours for a vessel registered under this Act."

Sovereign states

British overseas territories and crown dependencies

Civil ensigns that vary greatly from the national flag

Several countries have civil ensigns that are very different from the national flag, for instance Flag of Malta, Malta and Flag of Luxembourg, Luxembourg.

Civil ensigns consisting of the national flag with an additional emblem

Well-known examples are the Flag of Italy, Italian civil ensign showing the shield with the arms of the sea republics, and the Flag of Poland, Polish civil ensign with the arms of Poland. Most of these emblems were added to distinguish the ensign from similar flags of other countries (e.g. Colombia/Ecuador, Italy/Mexico, El Salvador/Nicaragua) or from other signal flags (e.g., Poland/pilot flag, Malta/ H signal flag).

Simplified national flags

In several countries (such as Spain and much of Hispanic America, and some European countries), there are two main versions of the flag, a simpler one (usually a striped flag) and a more elaborate one with the national arms. The simpler one is used as a civil ensign (and in most cases also as a civil flag), whereas the version with the arms is mainly used by the government and the military. In Flag of Spain, Spain, the flag without the arms is only a variant for civil use; the national flag is used also as a civil ensign.the Flag of Spain, simplified Spanish flag is a variant for civil use. Sourc
The history of the flag.
In Flag of El Salvador, El Salvador, the civil ensign also differs from the national flag in the proportions.

Civil ensigns differing from the national flag in the proportions

Several former British colonies use 1:2 as a proportion for their ensigns and 3:5 for flags ashore, whereas Slovenia, Croatia and Hungary have it the other way around, with ensigns at 2:3 and flags ashore at 1:2. France is a special case: the overall proportion is the same, but the bands on the ensign differ in width slightly.

See also

* :c:Civil and merchant ensigns, Civil and merchant ensigns * Civil air ensign


{{Lists of flags Civil ensigns Types of flags