Vessels sailing under the Netherlands Country 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 Netherlands Country Flag is represented by three equally proportioned horizontal stripes colored red, white and blue, from top to bottom. It is the most historic existing tricolor national flag. The Netherlands Country Flag is designated to be proportioned at a ratio of 2:3, height to length, respectively. The Flag was officially adopted as the national symbol in 1937, however it enjoys a storied history that dates back to about 1577 when it was flown at sea as an orange, white and blue symbol. The colors had previously been worn by soldiers who were honored by the addition of the naval flag. The original color orange was altered to red in 1660 when a political conflict made the color orange controversial. The Flag has only been abandoned once during it's long history, for a period spanning three years beginning in 1810 when the country was annexed by France and forced to honor the French Flag. The colors of the Netherlands Country Flag have been usurped or incorporated into the flags of more than 20 countries, including the United States.