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China - Shipping houseflags

Last modified: 2006-02-18 by phil nelson
Keywords: china | shipping | houseflag |
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China Merchant's Group

China Merchant Steam Navigation Company

[Merchant Ensign]
by Mario Fabretto

The China Merchants Group still exists. Nowadays it has its headquarters in Hong Kong, and it has a website ( Its history page (available only in Chinese) lists the important events throughout the company's 130-year history. Here I will quote only a few relevant ones.

  • 1872 - Dec 26: China Merchant Steam Navigation Company established with the approval of the Imperial Government.
  • 1873 - July: CMSNC changed its flag from the 'twin fish-dragon flag' to the red flag with 'the yellow moon'.
  • 1884 - July 29: Sino-French War broke out. CMSNC 'sold' its fleet to an American sister company to allow the ships to sail under the neutral US Flag.
  • 1885 - May 17: The 'sold' ships reverted to flying the CMSNC Flag.
  • 1951 - Feb 1: CMSNC was 'communized' to become Chinese People's Shipping Company. [The website does not say this, but the house flag would thereafter be a white-red-white horizontal tricolour with a yellow star between yellow zig-zags (three layers of 'M's on each side) in the red.]
  • Feb 14: The Hong Kong branch petitioned the head office to retain the name CMSNC.
  • Mar 15: The head office approved the retaining of the name CMSNC in Hong Kong.
  • 1980 - Jan 8: The shipping branch of CMSNC was renamed Hong Kong Ming Wah Shipping Company.
  • 1985 - Nov 12: CMSNC renamed China Merchants Group.
  • 1988 - Mar 25: China Merchant Group bought over a dozen ships (combined full displacements 1.6 million tonnes) from the 'Tung's Shipping Group' (Oriental Overseas Container Line Ltd

In light of this informations, I can say that while the yellow disc on red flag was, strictly speaking, the house flag of CMSNC, it was the de facto Chinese merchant ensign during the monarchy. Moreover, the list does not mention the variant flags with one or two dragons inside the disc - so my old assertion that these variants were fantasy flags still stands. In any case, The yellow moon flag is no longer flown nowadays... but at least they still remember it.
Miles Li, 7 December 2003

China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO)

[China Ocean Shipping Company houseflag]
image by Jarig Bakker, 21 January 2006
Source: Brown's Flags and Funnels of Shipping Companies of the World [lgr95]

Beijing - horizontal brightblue - red - brightblue flag; in center 5-pointed star between two rows of three waves, all yellow.
Jarig Bakker, 21 January 2006

[China Ocean Shipping Company houseflag]
by Jorge Candeias, 15 February 1999