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Swiss navy and Swiss flags at sea

Last modified: 2002-01-12 by pascal gross
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[Swiss flag at sea]
by António Martins

See also:

Flag at sea

During WW II a Swiss Naval Ensign was adopted with the proportions 2:3. The National Flag of Switzerland is square.
Nick Artimovich, 12 February 1996

It is used only by the Swiss commercial fleet outside Switzerland. On the lakes the usual square flag is used.
Harald Müller, 12 February 1996

Swiss Navy

Switzerland does have a small navy of sorts. Lakes Konstanz and Leman (Geneva) form international frontiers, and their navies consist of a few patrol craft. Switzerland also has a major Rhine commercial fleet (you can see the Swiss flag flying all the way to the Netherlands), which military patrol craft in time of war. Both the navy and air force are branches of the army (like the infantry and artillery). The air force is 1st in Europe -- so good that Israel used it as their model.
T. F. Mills, 12 February 1996

Merchant Maritime flag use

Recommendations from the British Government

One of three extracts from a memorandum sent to the Marine Department of the Board of Trade in connection with revisions to the pages of national ensigns in the International Code List published in 1879. [Public Record Office MT 9/183]

Proposal of the Government of Switzerland to establish a Swiss maritime flag.

1864. "Switzerland has no distinctive maritime flag. Her Majesty's Minister in Berne observed to the President of the Confederation that in the case where the merchant marine would not have the protection of a military one, the measure might lead to political complications in that while the position of Switzerland and her guaranteed neutrality induced all Foreign Powers under existing circumstances to extend to her citizens protection and goodwill, yet the use of the flag afloat might bring them into altercations with belligerent Powers."

The question was referred to Admiral Harris who replied that "HM Government could only view with satisfaction on the ocean, and in the ports of the British Empire the flag of an industrious and friendly power, and that in time of peace no question were likely to arise which would not admit of easy adjustment. However graver questions might arise in time of war in consequence of Switzerland possessing no port of her own, and from the ships bearing her flag hailing from ports of a belligerent. Neutrality guaranteed to the territory of Switzerland could not be held to afford exceptional privileges to the
merchant vessels of Swiss citizens, and the power proposed to be given to Swiss consuls to register vessels provisionally was considered likely to give rise to grave international difficulties. The question of enforcement of Swiss municipal law on board such vessels, and the manner in which respect to the Swiss Flag could be ensured were matters for the Swiss Government."

Law Officers' Opinion. "The proposal is novel and though Swiss Marine must necessarily be dependent upon the use of ports of other countries, there is no principle in International Law which ought to lead other countries to refuse to recognise the flag of an inland state, when used either by public ships of that state, or by the ships of its subjects under the authority of its Government upon the high seas."

Proposal adjourned by Swiss Legislature to the following session, and abandoned in 1866.

David Prothero, 17 April 2001

It would seem peculiarly British to suppose that a state needed a distinctive ensign--different from the national flag--for display at sea, since most other countries even then used the same flag for both purposes.

The more relevant point is that subsequent treaties including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea explicitly recognize the right of landlocked states to use the high seas under their own flags.

Joe McMillan, 17 April 2001

Yacht Clubs

Cruising Club of Switzerland

[Swiss flag at sea]
by Ivan Sache

Red pennant with a white cross voided througout and a Swiss cross in canton.
Ivan Sache, 5 August 2000

Swiss maritime companies

Some of the Swiss maritime companies (past and/or present from a quick search) of which I am aware:

Acomarit Services Maritimes S.A. - Genf
Alpina Reederei AG - Basel
Arabian Maritime Lines - Fribourg
Atlanship S.A. - La Tour-De-Peilz
Contal Shipping Ltd. - Zurich
Ermefer S.A. - Fribourg
Keller Shipping - Basel
Massoel Gestion Maritime SA - Genève
MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company S.A. - Genf
Navylloyd A.G. - Basel
Norasia Shipping Services S.A. - Fribourg
Oceana Shipping - Coire
Rondeau Holdings A.G. - Wollerau
St. Gotthard Schiffahrts A.G. (H.H. Thyssen-Bornemiza) - Chur
Suisse-Atlantique Societé de Navigation Maritime S.A. - Lausanne
Suisse-Outremer Reederei AG - Zürich
Suisse-Outremer S.A. de Gerance et d'Affretement Maritimes - Geneva
Reederei Zürich A.G. - Zürich

Phil Nelson, 6 October 2000

Oceana Shipping

[Oceana Shipping]  by Phil Nelson



[Panalpina]  by Jorge Candeias

Blue with a white logo centered.
The logo is composed of a winged human figure standing on a disc holding something that might be a sail.

Jorge Candeias, 6 March 1999


Suisse-Outremer S.A. de Gerance et d'Affretement Maritimes

[Oceana Shipping, S.A.]  by Phil Nelson