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Colombia - Flags for Use at Sea

Last modified: 2024-07-13 by daniel rentería
Keywords: colombia | custom | ensign |
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Merchant Flag (Civil Ensign)

(2:3) image by Zoltán Horváth, 8 May 2024 (According to [pay00])

The flag used by civil ships is yellow, blue, red 2:1:1, with a red bordered blue oval with white eight pointed star in the middle.
Željko Heimer, 8 December 1995

According to [pay00] - Civil Ensign (---/C-- (2:3)) - National flag with the blue oval bordered red with eight-pointed white star in the middle. This same flag is hoisted also on diplomatic missions abroad. Surely, this practice is due to avoid confusion with Ecuatorean missions. Also, this flag is not to be confused with the Diplomatic and Consular Flag which is the honourary flag hoisted on ships only to signify that a high diplomatic officer is aboard. Compering to the legislation - Civil ensign shown in Album is having to large the cental emblem.
Željko Heimer, 16 May 2001

Article 2 - the merchant ensign of Colombia is as it was established in the decree number 309 of 1980 (sic! maybe 1890?), three meters long and two meters wide, defaced in the middle with an oval shield of blue field encircled with a zone of red (velvet?) five centimeters wide and with a white eight-pointed star in the center, ten centimeters in diameter. The axes of the oval, within the blue filed, are forty centimeters the larger one and thirty centimeters the smaller one.
Paragraph: This should be the ensign used on the ships of the Colombian [Merchant] Marine and on the offices of the Consulates accredited abroad.
Željko Heimer, 17 May 2001

There are construction details in the law. Flag is 300 x 200 cm. Blue oval is 40 cm high and 30 cm wide, red ring around is 5 cm.. [zna99] shows it correct.
Ralf Stelter, 17 May 2001

One comment to the putative using the civil ensign by Colombian diplomatic missions: the Colombian embassy in Prague uses the national flag, not the ensign. If the Colombian civil ensign would in fact be used by the diplomatic missions, it is the state flag, isn't it? It should be labelled as -S-/C--.
Jan Zrzavy, 20 and 26 May 2001

This would mean that the role of state flag on land (-S-/---) belongs indistinctly to two different flag. Can it be so?
Antonio Martins, 28 May 2001

Yes. Absolutely. There are many examples of such cases. Remember that the "dot system" is only informative and orientational and many countries have their "specialities" which make often cases of two (or more) flags that could be used (maybe only in certain circumstances) for one of the uses in the "dot spaces".
Željko Heimer, 28 May 2001

Columbia has a distinctive civil ensign, apparently because its national flag is too similar to that of Ecuador. Therefore it seems strange that the national flag is said to be also the state ensign, for that would still cause confusion with the Ecuadorian flag. In my opinion, there are two real possibilities: one is that the civil ensign being also the state ensign, the other is that the war ensign being also the state ensign.
Miles Li, 29 May 2001

The civil ensign is distinctive from that of Ecuador as it has a seal while Ecuador uses her plain flag. The state flag of Colombia is plain while that of Ecuador has the Coat of Arms in it. So both do not cause any confusion. The national flags or civil flags - both plain - are flown by the inhabitants of either country. So there will be no confusion as the inhabitants will surely know in which country they live and fly their flag. The civil ensign of Colombia is also a state flag, but only for special occasions, i.e. for embassies, consulates and foreign dependencies of the government, so it should be possibly named "state flag in foreign countries" or "state flag abroad". So the confusion is also avoided. But: The Colombian embassy in Berlin uses the plain flag outside their building, while inside the flag of the ambassador shows the badge. The secretary of the embassy told me: "The badge or seal is stitched onto the flag and it would never be used outside. This flag is the personal flag of the ambassador or any official dealing with Colombian affairs. The flag hoisted outside should normally be with the seal, but is used without as it is distinctive from Ecuador's flag - they use the flag with CoA - and it does not matter which flag - the one with seal or the plain flag - is used." So the flag with seal should possibly be named "state flag abroad, alternate"...
Ralf Stelter, 29 May 2001

What I am really talking about is the State Ensign afloat, not the State Flag on land. If a distinctive civil ensign exists to distinguish Columbia from Ecuador, why not the state ensign?
Miles Li, 29 May 2001

Merchant ships, both in sea and in the air, use the civil engine.  I am not sure about actual custom at see, but they are supposed to fly it, and all commertial aircrafts have it painted (some times with a circle instead of an oval, and many times with a five pointed star).  Here in Bogotá, nobody flies the civil engine, I would dare that very few people would even recognize it.  I can't remember any time I have seen that flag flying from a pole on land, and as I live quite away from the sea, I cannot check right now if it is actually used on boats.
Carlos Thompson, 24 March 2003

According to my notes, " ...the eight-pointed star is that of the former Federation of Gran Columbia which was dissolved in 1830", and to which, of course, Columbia belonged.  Also according to my notes, "This flag (the Civil Ensign that is) was adopted by Article 2 of Decree No. 309 of 8 May 1890".
Christopher Southworth, 1 December 2003

I wonder if anybody can give me the correct date for the specification of the Columbian Civil Ensign?
We give 11 May 1934 as the date of Decree No. 861, and I have May 11 1924?
We also give "1980" as the date of Decree 309 which established the flag, whereas the true year is 1890.
I can report that the year 1934 for specification of the Civil Ensign (and shown on the official website), is contradicted by:
'Heraldica nacional: estudio documental' by Enrique Ortega Ricaurte (Bogota, Publicaciones del Banco de la Republica, 1954) says 17 May 1924, and that the decree was published in the Diario Oficial no.19607 of 24 May 1924 pp 455-56.
According to this source there was a decree in 1934, which altered the shape of the shield of the national arms, but this was repealed in 1949.
Christopher Southworth, 5 and 8 January 2004

Decree dated 1924 ratified the state flag as was according the previous law of 1906 and established it as naval ensign. Law of 14 July 1906  (Decree 844) also ratified the previous flag. The first adoption was by decree 26 November 1861. See on
<> and <>.
Jaume Ollé, 12 January 2004

I supose that 1934 was the year current law reglamenting flag use was issued, but this does not mean that the flag was adopted that year.
I took my New Year holidays at Cartagena. All civil ships I could see used the plain Y-B-R 2:1:1 horizontal tricolor, with no shield and no star, and any ratio.  I could not see, however, the flag of any merchant ship, which I presume are the ones using the starred flag. 
Carlos Thompson, 9 January 2004


image by Jaume Ollé, 27 October 2001

image by Jaume Ollé, 27 October 2001

The other day I saw something strange in Lisbon: In front of the HQ of the Ibero-American Capital Cities' Association, a row of poles with all member states flags included for Colombia its civil ensign - and the large oval variant of it at that, instead of the usual civil flag.
António Martins-Tuválkin, 11 August 2005

See also: 1890 flags

Construction Sheet

image by Željko Heimer, 17 May 2001

1 unit = 5 cm.

The reason that Željko's construction diagram does not contain any details of the star is because Decree 861 of 17 May 1924 that defined the flag did not specify any.  My own specifications simply creates the star by using a central circle one-half the diameter of the outer, and as far as I know this is pretty much a default size (for stars with over five points) in the absence of official information to the contrary.
Christopher Southworth, 21 November 2005

I have made the star to be equal as if it was made as an octagram connecting each third vertex. This produces the inner circle approximately 0.54 of the outer. This matches well with the Album 2000, my primary source for these images (including the air force rounde using the same star). If there is no evidence for other, this seems a reasonable assuption. In this case the difference between 0.54 and 0.5 inner diameter is probably hard to notice and both would do in practice equally well, I guess.
Željko Heimer, 25 November 2005

image located by Esteban Rivera, 24 April 2023

I located an image which also features the dimensions of the 8-pointed star. It is most likely that the Civil Ensign displays the 8-pointed star to pay homage either to Cartagena and/or the United Provinces of New Grenada the first truly independent territories in what is now Colombia. However, it does seem that when in use (especially on aircraft, as part of their livery for identification purposes), the flag proportions do not match the construction sheet, since the rectangular shape is a bit longer when applied.

There's also at least another variant featuring the star and in slightly different shapes (most likely due to a manufacturer mistake).
Dimensions: Length: 71″ Width: 44″."

Esteban Rivera, 24 April 2023

Custom Ensign

image by Željko Heimer, 23 May 2001

National flag with a large blue border.
Source: Album des Pavillons (1995) [pay].
Ivan Sache, 12 August 1999

According to [pay00] - Customs (2:3) - National flag with blue border (i.e. similar to port capitains flag but with blue border). The blue border in Album 2000 is light blue. Previous Album issues had that border of the same blue as the middle stripe, but similarly with discussion regarding other flags with this "duality" the Album 2000 images are supposedly correct (or more correct then others, it may easily be that in practice the difference is not observed).
Željko Heimer, 23 May 2001

Flaggenbuch (1939) already showed the flag. The customs ensign has the same pattern as port capitain, but with a blue border. Anyway, the figures are slightly different: height of the horizontal blue borders: 46 each.
Therefore, the national flag inside the blue border should be 108:204 (figures not mentioned on the image). Its stripes are 50:24:24, from top to bottom. There is something wrong in Flaggenbuch figures in this case!
Ivan Sache, 24 May 2001

In Flaggenbuch the blue border of the customs ensign has the same shade as the blue stripe in the national flag it surrounds. After rechecking the image, I an confirm that Flaggenbuch indeed shows a slightly off-centered Colombian flag in the Port commander's flag. The image agrees with the numbers put on it, and I cannot imagine Neubecker making two mistakes in the same flag.
Ivan Sache, 27 May 2001

Reported Flags

image by Jaume Ollé, 5 November 2001

image by Jaume Ollé, 5 November 2001

Images according to Flaggenbuch and others inc. Restrepo Uribe.
Jaume Ollé, 5 November 2001

Merchant Ships Whose Captain is Navy Officer (Reserve)

(2:3) image by Željko Heimer, 20 May 2001
According to [

(2:3) image by Jaume Ollé, 5 November 2001
Variant (?)

According to [pay00] - Merchant ships whose captain is Navy officer (reserve) (---/C-- (2:3)) - The same design as the civil ensign with addition of a black anchor in canton. This flag should maybe more simple be called "Reserve ensign" as this is the English term that covers it.
Željko Heimer, 20 May 2001