Vessels sailing under the New Zealand 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 New Zealand Country Flag is recognized as a royal blue background with the stars of the Southern Cross gracing the Fly, or right side. Only the four most dominant stars of the Southern Cross are represented on the New Zealand Country Flag, three forming a semicircle above one that is directly located under the central star atop. The Union Jack of the United Kingdom is represented in the upper hoist, or left quadrant. The Union Jack is represented by a royal blue background. Two diagonal red stripes are recessed and cross in the center. These stripes are outlined in white. A prominent red cross fills the emblem with it's main body from top to bottom and the arms stretching the length of the Union Jack symbol. The cross is also outlined in white. The New Zealand Country Flag was formally adopted in 1902. It is designated to hold a proportional ratio of 1:2, height to length, respectively. A referendum is scheduled to be held in 2016 regarding the elimination of the Union Jack emblem from the canton.