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U.S. Merchant Marine Flag Program

U.S. Merchant Marine Flag Program flag.

What is the Merchant Marine Flag Program?

The Merchant Marine Flag Program loans USMM flags and authorizes the use of USMM logos to qualifying institutions for public display alongside other flags of the United States Armed Forces. Displaying these Merchant Marine emblems supports the MARAD mission and allows organizations to: 

  • underscore the historic and continuing contributions of the United States Merchant Marine
  • recognize the role United States merchant mariners play in national defense
  • remind mariners-in-training that they are part of a long tradition and profession whose mission goes beyond individual gain and support the highest principles of public service
  • enhance public awareness of the U.S. Merchant Marine as a career path for U.S. citizens

How does it work?

  1. MARAD receives a request for a Merchant Marine flags and/or logo from an organization wishing to honor the U.S. Merchant Marine or its mariners
  2. A committee reviews the request
  3. If approved, 1) a USMM logo (forms vary) and/or 2) flag is displayed alongside other Armed Service flags for public viewing


Public Law 84-759, 46 CFR Part 350 or Maritime Administrative Order (MAO) MAO 550-3 prescribes the procedures under which Merchant Marine flags may be given or loaned to qualifying organizations. 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 Committee also develops and recommends to the Maritime Administrator changes to this MAO. Merchant Marine flags are neither gifts nor awards for individuals; they exist to recognize and memorialize the United States Merchant Marine role and contributions to American freedom, commerce, and defense. USMM flags can only be awarded or loaned to the following group types:

  • Public entities or civic organizations in the United States qualified under United States Code, Title 26, section 501(c)(3), which at the time of application and requested Merchant Marine flag display location:
    • have at least 100 members and host visits by at least 2,500 other members of the public annually
    • publicly display the United States flag and the flag of at least one United States military service
  • Educational institutions providing maritime training that would lead to a career in the United States Merchant Marine
  • Institutions qualified to receive donated property under 46 U.S.C. § 51103
  • 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
    • are registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a non-profit organization
    • are open to the public, or have and will display the flags in publicly accessible areas; and
    • operate under an educational, maritime, or civic mission
  • Federal, State or local government entities that will display the flag(s) in publicly-accessible areas
  • Cemeteries or other locations at which U.S. merchant mariners are buried and where the Merchant Marine flag will be displayed with flags of at least one other branch of United States Armed Forces.


For questions about the Merchant Marine Flag Program, contact:

Katrina McRae                                                                                                                                              Vessel Transfer Specialist                                                                                                                             Office of Sealift Support at                                                                            or 202-366-3198