Vessels sailing under the British Virgin Islands flag are required to have on board this flag as part of flag state requirements that derive from maritime regulations in the International Code of Signals and the International Safety Management (ISM) Code. These codes are published by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) as an ongoing effort to reinforce maritime safety procedures and communications to the international maritime community. Fleet management companies and ship owners are responsible to ensure that each vessel in their respective fleets have the appropriate flag signage onboard to be in compliance. This flag is used to identify the flag state a vessel is sailing under and to communicate with other vessels under the provisions of the International Code of Signals.
The British Virgin Islands display a number of flags. However, local vessels may display the British Red Ensign. The overseas territorial flag, or British Blue Ensign consists of a blue background with the Union Jack in the upper left corner. Centered on the right hand side of the flag is a badge that depicts the British Virgin Islands coat of Arms. The coat of arms prominently features St. Ursula and 11 lamps that signify her virgin followers. Ursula appears on the badge holding a gold oil lamp. Beneath her on a buff colored ribbon is the phrase "Vigilate", which translated means "Be Vigilant". The white robed Ursula appears on a green shield. Until 1960, the British Virgin Islands did not have symbols of its own. However, the coat of arms was granted on November 15,1960. In 1999, the Blue Ensign was modified with an enlarged shield outlined in white. This flag is used by government vessels.