Can I sail under the Dutch flag?

The ICP is an unofficial ownership certificate, it proves the ownership of the vessel. The boat is therefore not registered in the official ships register of the Netherlands.


Until halfway July 2018 the ICP stated that one could sail under the Dutch flag, as on the document it said “Flag : Dutch”.


Due to an incident with the German vessel Lifeline, that was transporting refuges to mainland Europe, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management made the following adjustments in the document :


  1. Flag : not applicable
  2. On the back of the ICP the following is stated :

    Prior to issue of this document ownership has been rendered credible. This certificate is valid only as long as the particulars have not changed. In case of change, it must be returned to the issuing organization for amendment.

    This document can not be interpreted as giving Dutch nationality to the craft, nor does it constitute the right to fly the flag of the Kingdom of the Netherlands as defined by Article 9 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Consequently the Kingdom of the Netherlands does not accept any of the responsibilities listed in article 94 of UNCLOS.


This means that strictly speaking one may not sail under the Dutch flag when in procession of the “new” ICP. Older versions were it states “Flag : Dutch” we would think you are permitted to sail under the Dutch flag.


Fact remains, as before, that the ICP document is an unofficial ownerships certificate and that therefore the vessel has not been formally registered in the Dutch ships register and can therefore not claim to be of Dutch nationality.

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28th December 2018 at 16:47

I have just received the ICP certificate together with a brand new ducth flag but i still don’t know wich flag i have to put on the stern of my boat and furhet more i don’t know if i can use the boat in the italian waters……i would really appreciate if somebody can be more clear on this topic. Thanks

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9th May 2019 at 13:22

We were told that by the authorities in the Netherlands that you should sail without a flag, because the ICP document states so. The question is, doe authorities in each EU state accept that a boat sails the inland waters without flag?

The authorities in the Netherlands are pretty straight forward in this matter. With an ICP you are not allowed to sail under the flag of the Netherlands. If you do want to sail under the Dutch flag, then you will have to apply for the Certificate of Registry or register in an other flag state.