- International Code of Signals
The International Code of Signals (INTERCO) is a signal code to be used by merchant and naval vessels to communicate important messages about the state of a vessel and the intent of its master or commander when there are language barriers. INTERCO signals can be sent by
signal flag, blinker light, flag semaphore, Morse code, or by radio.
The current manager of the INTERCO is the
International Maritime Organization.
History of the International Code of Signals
The First International Code was drafted in 1855 by the
British Board of Tradeand was published by the Board in 1857 in two parts; the first containing universal and international signals and the second British signals only. 18 separate signal flags were used to make over 70,000 possible messages. It was revised by the British Board of Trade in 1887, and was modified at the International Conference of 1889 in Washington, D.C. The code was used at the Battle of Tsushima, when the survivors of the Russian fleet sent XGE ("I surrender"), to the astonishment of the Japanese officers.
World War I, The International Radiotelegraph Conferenceat Washington in 1927 considered proposals for a new revision of the Code. The Code was prepared in seven languages: English, French, Italian, German, Japanese, Spanish and in Norwegian. This new edition was completed in 1930 and was adopted by the International Radiotelegraph Conference held in Madrid in1932. The Madrid Conference also set up a standing committee for continual revision of the Code.
The new version introduced vocabulary for aviation and a complete medical section with the assistance and by the advice of the Office International d’Hygiene Publique. A certain number of signals were also inserted for communications between vessels and shipowners, agents, repair yards, and other maritime stakeholders.
After World War II, The Administrative Radio Conference of the
International Telecommunication Unionsuggested in 1947 that the International Code of Signals should fall within the competence of the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization (IMCO), which became the IMO. In January 1959, the First Assembly of IMCO decided that the Organization should assume all thefunctions then being performed by the Standing Committee of the International Code of Signals.
The Second Assembly of IMCO 1961 endorsed plans for a comprehensive review of the International Code of Signals to meet updated requirements of mariners. The revisions were prepared in nine languages: English, French, Italian, German, Japanese, Spanish, and Norwegian, Russian and Greek.
The Code was revised in 1964 taking into account recommendations from the 1960
Conference on Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the 1959
Administrative Radio Conference, in Geneva 1959. It was adopted in 1965.
Every signal in the INTERCO has a complete meaning; that is, a recipient does not need to receive two or more signals to complete a message.
The English-language version of the INTERCO is available through the
National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency(NGA), which was formerly the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, as Publication 102. [ [http://www.nga.mil/portal/site/maritime/?epi_menuItemID=923e01c531c0a3825b2a7fbd3227a759&epi_menuID=35ad5b8aabcefa1a0fc133443927a759&epi_baseMenuID=e106a3b5e50edce1fec24fd73927a759 International Code of Signals] ]
AC: I am abandoning my vessel.
AD: I am abandoning my vessel which has suffered a nuclear accident and is a possible source of radiation danger.
AN: I need a doctor.
AN 1: I need a doctor; I have severe burns.
AN 2: I need a doctor; I have radiation casualties.
EL: Repeat the distress position.
EL 1: What is the position of vessel in distress?
GM: I cannot save my vessel.
GN: You should take off persons.
GN 1: I wish some persons taken off. Skeleton crew will remain on board.
GN 2: I will take off persons.
GN 3: Can you take off persons?
IT: I am on fire.
MAA: I request urgent medical advice.
MAB: I request you to make rendezvous in position indicated.
MAC: I request you to arrange hospital admission.
MAD: I am . . . (indicate number) hours from the nearest port.
MS 1: My vessel is a dangerous source of radiation; you may approach from my starboard side.
VG: The coverage of low clouds is… (number of octants or eighths of sky covered).
US 4: Nothing can be done until weather moderates.
International maritime signal flags
* [http://www.navypaxsail.com/Flags.htm Freeware program teaches & translates ICS Flags]
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