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U.S. Merchant Marine Flag Program

U.S. Merchant Marine Flag Program flag.

U.S. Merchant Marine Flags for Qualified Organizations

The Maritime Administration (MARAD) has developed a U.S. Merchant Marine Flag Program authorized by Public Law 84-759, 46 CFR Part 350 or Maritime Administrative Order (MAO) MAO 550-3 which prescribes the procedures under which Merchant Marine flags may be given or loaned to qualifying organizations.

MARAD receives requests for Merchant Marine flags and logos from organizations that wish to honor the historic and continuing contributions of merchant mariners to the United States.  MARAD also has received requests for Merchant Marine flags and logos from various educational organizations that perform maritime training.

It has been determined that honoring certain of these requests supports MARAD’s mission.  Providing these flags, and displaying them with the flags of the U.S. Armed Forces, recognizes the role United States merchant mariners have played and continue to play in the national defense of the United States.  In recognizing the achievements and importance of the service of U.S. merchant mariners, the displays would also enhance public awareness of the U.S. Merchant Marine as a career path for citizens of the United States and focus individuals considering such careers on the importance and value of the work they would do as merchant mariners.  This recognition would also underscore the dignity and significance of the United States Merchant Marine as a whole.  In addition, such flags would remind those training to be merchant mariners that they are part of a long tradition and profession whose mission goes beyond individual gain, in support of the highest principles of public service.

However, Merchant Marine flags are neither gifts nor awards for individuals.  They are intended to serve the central purpose of recognizing and memorializing the past and continuing role and contribution of the merchant mariners of the United States.

A Merchant Marine Awards and Flags Committee has been established to make recommendations to the Maritime Administrator regarding which groups satisfy the criteria set forth below and should receive either the donation or a loan of the Merchant Marine flag and under what terms and conditions.  The Merchant Marine Awards and Flag Committee is further authorized to develop and recommend to the Maritime Administrator changes to this MAO governing the award of merchant marine flags and replacements thereof.

Criteria:  Merchant Marine flags may only be given or loaned to the following groups:

  1. Public entities, or civic organizations in the United States qualified under United States Code, Title 26, section 501(c)(3), which at the location in which the Merchant Marine flag would be displayed have, at the time of application, at least 100 members and host visits by at least 2500 other members of the public annually in that location; and, at the time of application, publicly display the United States flag and the flag of at least one United States military service.
  2. Educational institutions providing maritime training that would lead to a career in the United States Merchant Marine.
  3. Institutions qualified to receive donated property under 46 U.S.C. § 51103.
  4. Non-profit organizations as defined by Section 501(c) of the United States Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S.C. § 501(c)), memorial/museum ships, and public bodies that:
    1. Are registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a non-profit organization;
    2. Are open to the public, or have and will display the flags in publicly accessible areas; and
    3. Possess an educational, maritime, or civic mission.
  5. Federal, State or local government entities that will display the flags in publicly accessible areas.
  6. Cemeteries or other locations at which U.S. merchant mariners are buried and where the Merchant Marine flag will be displayed with the flags of at least one other of the Armed Forces of the United States.
Updated: Friday, December 7, 2018