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House flags of soviet shipping companies

Last modified: 2014-04-05 by zoltán horváth
Keywords: hammer and sickle: no star (yellow) | hammer and sickle: no star (white) | freighters and passenger ships soviet shipping company | trade and fishing fleet soviet shipping company |
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About these flags

Information on the Soviet merchant fleet was not readily available in the West and it was not until the latter 1970s that Lloyds, instead of showing all vessels under the one "USSR" heading, were able to divide it into the various sections under which it actually operated. Originally the individual companies, and a couple still exist, were united under state control in 1917. Going by The Flag Bulletin [tfb] XI:1 1972, they were divided up under various Shipping Authorities, most of which had pennants (see list).

According to The Flag Bulletin the pennants of that time were authorized in the Decree of August 29th 1924 SZ SSR (1925) No. 27, item 185. As some of these have now been found to date from 30.7.1923 it is not clear whether there was an earlier Decree or whether this one legitimized their use. Another Decree dated January 15th 1926 abolished the pennants of the Baltic, Black Sea - Azov and Northern State Maritime Shipping Authorities which fits with the afore mentioned references.

Neale Rosanoski, 16 Nov 2003

I’m not sure about the current status of these companies. The ships and their routes naturaly go on existing, but the companies might have been privatized, partly or entirely, split or joined to others, renamed, and/or might have adopted new house flags.
António Martins, 17 Aug 2000

Chartered areas for each company

Some areas, considering the companies listed in these pages (see coastal and riverine shipping in Soviet Europe and Asia) seem to have been left without a shipping company, notably the Obh river (perhaps not enough population on its basin?), the Pacific coast, Baykal lake, Ural river etc. Were there more companies than those on our pages? If so, what about their flags?
António Martins, 22 Oct 2003


Sovtorgflot | Совтогфлот
(Soviet Commercial Fleet)

Sovtorgflot house flag
image by Jan Mertens, 01 Nov 2003

Pennant for ships of joint-stock company Sovtorgflot was adopted by Soviet of People’s Commissioners (government) on 12 Feb. 1926. It was red pennant with white hammer and sickle in the corner. Ratio 5:1, height of H&S emblem - 1/2 of pennant width.
Victor Lomantsov, 02 Nov 2003

One single USSR house flag in the 1930 Larousee Commercial [hok30], that of Sovtorgflot or Soviet Commercial Fleet. Red triangular flag or pennant, a white hammer and sickle in the left upper corner (no star), filling 1/2 of the hoist. (Funnel: black with a red band.)
Jan Mertens, 01 Nov 2003

In the early 1960s Sovtorgflot was replaced by Morflot and the fleet was divided into regional groups and 16 companies of which several still exist amongst the individual countries that resulted from the Soviet breakup.
Neale Rosanoski, 16 Nov 2003

I wonder if the author of [hok30] depicted an existing pennant (variant?) or just shifted the emblem to the upper left corner as is seen on the USSR flag.
Jan Mertens, 01 Nov 2003

Colin Stewart’s Flags, Funnels and Hull Colours, 1953, [ste59] also shows a large, yellow hammer and sickle on a red pennant. It is slightly offset towards the fly. The caption is simply «U.S.S.R. Merchants Ships». (The funnel is show as vetrically white/black with a horizontal red band bearing the yellow hammer and sickle.)
Ned Smith, 02 Nov 2003

Incorrect depiction with blue background

Sov. err. flag
image by Eugene Ipavec, 4 Jan 2008

According to Talbot-Booth [tbb36] in Jane’s Warsaw Pact Merchant Ships Recognition Handbook of 1987, the Soviet merchant fleet was managed by the Ministry of the Merchant Fleet, known as Sovtorgflot, and in his books from 1927 to 1949 he shows this as having a blue pennant bearing the yellow hammer and sickle
Neale Rosanoski, 16 Nov 2003

Incorrect depiction with yellow emblem

I found another Sovtorg flag in Elseviers Wereldatlas, 1951: red burgee with in the center a yellow hammer and sickle, the sickle heavily fimbriated red.
Jarig Bakker, 01 Nov 2003

Incorrect depiction with big emblem

In Ivanov’s book [iva71] site the hammer and sickle in the Sovtorgflot pennant boldly fill the entire hoist.
Jan Mertens, 01 Nov 2003, and Victor Lomantsov, 02 Nov 2003

About the company

Some information is found in this website:

Maritime transport in Russia became an independent sector in 1924 when the joint-stock company "Sovtorgflot" was formed to unite under its flag and auspices ships and vessels of various departments, ports and ship-repairing enterprises, as well as educational establishments. In 1974 the sector was awarded the Order of Lenin for outstanding achievements in the development of maritime transport and transportation of cargoes for the national economy including foreign trade.
Of course, as such, this entity no longer exists.
Jan Mertens, 01 Nov 2003


Freighters and Passenger Ships Soviet Shipping Company

Pass. house flag
image by Jens Pattke, 03 Feb 2002

Flag of the shipping company of freighters and passenger ships of the USSR. Source: [swu88].
Jens Pattke, 03 Feb 2002

The USSR publication To The USSR by Sea published c. 1970 gives long pennants for the passenger and cargo vessels of the USSR Ministry of Merchant Marine as red with the gold hammer and sickle in the canton. These correspond apart from format to this flag but in fact the rectangular flags correspond exactly with the funnel band markings of these two sectors of USSR shipping.
Neale Rosanoski, 03 Sep 2005

This may have a bearing as the title shown here suggests that there was only one company concerned which would indicate Sovtorgflot and being pre 1960s. Possibly the basic emblem design is correct and Stewart 1953 [ste53] to 1959 [ste59] shows it but on a triangular flag — and positioned in the fly which may have no significance.

Then in the 1963 edition Stewart [ssy63] shows a pennant of the national flag i.e. red with the gold outlined star and crossed hammer and sickle placed in the upper hoist and this version is supported by Loughran in his 1979 book [lgr79] where he notes that «nearly all Russian merchant vessels» use this flag. However the use of pennants does appear to have been an established Soviet practice which makes the use of the rectangular flags shown here possibly suspect as house flags although they could be ensigns.

The Flag Bulletin [tfb] XI:1 1972 does not mention any such although it does detail an Ensign for Sea-going and River vessels of Osoaviakhim adopted July 18th 1940 which indicates that ensigns apart from the national version were used. This is possibly a moot point when dealing with state organizations which are more “government departments” than “companies” in the context of house flags.

Neale Rosanoski, 16 Nov 2003


Trade and Fishing Fleet Soviet Shipping Company

Trade house flag
image by Jens Pattke, 03 Feb 2002

Flag of the shipping company of the trade and fishing fleet of the USSR. Source: [swu88].
Jens Pattke, 03 Feb 2002

I cannot verify this from sightings of Russian fishing vessels seen from the mid 1970s on as they only ever seemed to fly the ensign.
Neale Rosanoski, 16 Nov 2003

The USSR publication To The USSR by Sea published c. 1970 gives long pennants for the commercial fishery vessels belonging to the Ministry of Fishing Industry a red pennant with the gold hammer and sickle in the canton, bordered gold on the upper and lower edges. These correspond apart from format to this flag but in fact the rectangular flags correspond exactly with the funnel band markings of these two sectors of USSR shipping.
Neale Rosanoski, 03 Sep 2005


Technological Fleet Soviet Shipping Company

Tech. house flag
image by Jens Pattke, 03 Feb 2002

Flag of the shipping company of the technological fleet of the USSR. Source: [swu88].
Jens Pattke, 03 Feb 2002

Such a description sounds more like vessels under Government Ministries which were outside the control of Morflot although presumably they did come under predecessor Sovtorgflot. Talbot-Booth [tbb36] does not specify on this point.
Neale Rosanoski, 16 Nov 2003


Triangular union flag

Soviet pennant
image by Jarig Bakker and António Martins, 27 Dec 2004

In The Caltex book of Flags and Funnels [scx59], as # 3 is the Houseflag of Russian Whale Factory Ships, Odessa — a red burgee with in the canton a yellow hammer and sickle.
Jarig Bakker, 27 Dec 2004

The USSR publication To The USSR by Sea published c. 1970 gives long pennants for the passenger and cargo vessels of the USSR Ministry of Merchant Marine as red with the gold hammer and sickle in the canton
Neale Rosanoski, 03 Sep 2005


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