Letter/phonetic name


ICS meaning as single flag

When used with numeric complements

A – Alpha

“I have a diver down; keep well clear at slow speed.”

Azimuth or bearing

B – Bravo

 “I am taking in or discharging or carrying dangerous goods.” 

C – Charlie

“Yes or Affirmative.”

Course in degrees magnetic

D – Delta

“Keep clear of me; I am manoeuvering with difficulty.”


E – Echo

“I am altering my course to starboard.”

F – Foxtrot

“I am disabled; communicate with me.”

G – Golf

“I require a pilot.”

By fishing vessels near fishing grounds: “I am hauling nets.”

Longitude (The first 2 or 3 digits denote degrees; the last 2 denote minutes.)

H – Hotel

“I have a pilot on board.”

I – India

“I am altering my course to port.”

J – Juliett

 “I am on fire and have dangerous cargo on board: keep well clear of me.”
“I am leaking dangerous cargo.”

K – Kilo

“I wish to communicate with you.”

“I wish to communicate with you by…”:
1) Morse signaling by hand-flags or arms;
2) Loud hailer (megaphone);
3) Morse signaling lamp;
4) Sound signals.

L – Lima

“You should stop your vessel instantly.”

Latitude (the first 2 digits denote degrees; the last 2 denote minutes.)

M – Mike

“My vessel is stopped and making no way through the water.”

N – November


O – Oscar

“Man overboard.” (often attached to the man overboard pole on boats).
With a sinister hoist, the semaphore flag.

P – Papa

The blue Peter.
In harbour: All persons should report on board as the vessel is about to proceed to sea.
At sea: It may be used by fishing vessels to mean: “My nets have come fast upon an obstruction.”

Q – Quebec

“My vessel is ‘healthy’ and I request free pratique.”

R – Romeo

No ICS meaning as single flag.
Prior to 1969: “The way is off my ship; you may feel your way past me.”

Distance (range) in nautical miles.

S – Sierra

“I am operating astern propulsion.”

Speed (velocity) in knots

T – Tango

“Keep clear of me.”
Fishing boats: “Keep clear of me; I am engaged in pair trawling.”

Local time. (The first 2 digits denote hours; the last 2 denote minutes.)

U – Uniform

“You are running into danger.”

V – Victor

“I require assistance.”

Speed in kilometres per hour.

W – Whiskey

“I require medical assistance.”

X – Xray

“Stop carrying out your intentions and watch for my signals.”

Y – Yankee

“I am dragging my anchor.”

Z – Zulu

“I require a tug.”
By fishing vessels near fishing grounds: “I am shooting nets.”

Time (UTC). (The first 2 digits denote hours; the last 2 denote minutes.)