Blue sign

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Blue sign activated, during starboard passing
File:Blaue Tafel mit weißem Funkellicht Binnenschiff 02.JPG
Rotating-style blue sign laying flat when not active. There is a 5 cm white border and the light is in the centre

A blue sign or blue board is used by inland waterways vessels within the Trans-European Inland Waterway network when performing a special manoeuvre or passing on the starboard side. On navigable waterways vessels normally pass each other on the port-side, so the display of the blue sign and flashing white light signal intention to pass each other on the starboard-side.[1] This process is known as blue boarding or historically blue flagging.[2][3][4][5]

The Code Européen des Voies de la Navigation Intérieure (CEVNI) regulations require upstream vessels operating on the opposite side to display a light-blue sign and scintillating (flashing) white light.[6] Article 3.03 states that the board must be rectangular and 1-metre × 1-metre for large vessels, or 0.6-metres × 0.6-metres for small vessels.[7]

The presence and status of the blue sign is transmitted by the ship's Inland-Automatic Identification System (Inland-AIS) transponder to other vessels. The status of the sign is transmitted using two bits of the "regional application flags"/"special manoeuvre field" in the AIS position reports.[8] This must be transmitted every ten seconds.[9]


  1. Varen doe je samen!; Numericanal; Department of Waterways; Rotterdam Harbour; Groningen Seaports; Amsterdam Harbour; Koninklijke Schuttevaer; ANWB; Watersportverbond; HISWA; SRN (2014). "The Blue Sign" (PDF). 
  2. Harwood, Margaret (2015). "Appendix". Cruising the Inland Waterways of France & Belgium (18th ed.). The Cruising Association. p. 162. ISBN 978-1-326-11343-8. Blue Flagging. Especially on rivers, look out for ships or barges with a blue flag or board display on the starboard side of the wheelhouse. 
  3. Martin, Marian (2013). The European Waterways: A User's Guide. A & C Black. p. 161. ISBN 9781472901545. … meetings are conducted what is colloquially known as 'blue boarding' 
  4. Clark Jr., Fred C. (April 1974). Smyth, Peter R., ed. "Cruising Europe". Motor Boating & Sailing. Whiting, John R. p. 138. ISSN 1531-2623. Lots of blue flagging, as upbound vessels try to stay in the shadow of the current, and call for starboard-to-starboard passing. 
  5. Pilkington, Roger (1964). Small boat through Germany (originally published 1963). St. Martin's Press. we had already rigged an arrangement for blue flagging—a flag of Oxbridge blue run up on the starboard side being an indication that a vessel proceeding downstream on the Rhine, Meuse, Main, Neckar, Lahn, Ems, Weser, Elbe or Seine wishes to meet an approaching ship starboard to starboard instead of port to port. Or, more simply, that the skipper is keeping to the left instead of the right because he wants the current, or can't steer properly 
  6. Inland Transport Committee; Working Party on Inland Water Transport. "Rules of the Road". European Code for Inland Waterways (PDF) (5th ed.). United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. p. 53. ISBN 978-92-1-117090-0. Retrieved 22 July 2015. Article 6.04 – Meeting: Normal rules … 4. Vessels proceeding upstream which leave the course of those proceeding downstream on their starboard side shall in good time and to starboard: … Display a light blue board in conjunction with a bright scintillating white light. 
  7. Inland Transport Committee; Working Party on Inland Water Transport. "Visual Signals (Marking) on Vessels". European Code for Inland Waterways (PDF) (5th ed.). United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. p. 20. ISBN 978-92-1-117090-0. Retrieved 22 July 2015. Article 3.03 – Boards, flags and pennants … rectangular. … (a) … neither the length nor the width is less than 1 m or, in the case of small craft, less than 0.60 m; 
  8. Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine (CCNR) Test Standard Inland AIS (PDF) (Report). Vessel Tracking and Tracing Standard for Inland Navigation (2.0 ed.). 16 October 2012. p. 12–13. Retrieved 22 July 2015.  line feed character in |title= at position 59 (help)
  9. "Commission Regulation (EC) No 415/2007" (concerning the technical specifications for vessel tracking and tracing systems referred to in Article 5 of Directive 2005/44/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on harmonised river information services (RIS) on inland waterways in the Community of 13 March 2007). Official Journal of the European Union. 23 April 2007. Retrieved 22 July 2015. 1.3.2. Navigation, short-term ahead … Navigation a short-term ahead is the decision phase in the navigation process. … — intention (blue sign), 

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