How does MarineTraffic identify a vessel's country and flag?

A lot of Static and Dynamic information is constantly being transmitted via a vessel's AIS. However, no information on the vessel's flag is directly included in these transmissions. Still, it is possible to "decipher" the flag of any vessel using her MMSI number.

A Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) is a nine-digit number which is uniquely assigned to identify (among other stations) ship stations. Thus, every vessel has her own, unique MMSI number. This number is sent, in digital form, over a radio frequency channel and is included, as already mentioned, in the AIS-transmitted information.

The first digit of an MMSI depends on the kind of station to which it is assigned. So, MMSIs starting with any number between 2 to 7 refer to ship stations. The initial digit of a ship station determines the vessel's area of origin:

  • 2 = Europe
  • 3 = North America, Central America and Caribbean 
  • 4 = Asia
  • 5 = Oceania
  • 6 = Africa
  • 7 = South America

The next 2 digits make each MMSI country-specific. This is how the vessel's flag can be identified! For example:

  • 247 = Italy, 205 = Belgium (notice that due to the fact that these countries are European, both their MMSIs begin with the number 2)

So, the first 3 digits of any MMSI number are indicative of the respective vessel's flag. These 3 digits are also called Maritime Identification Digits (MID). Note that some countries have more than one MID assigned to them. For example:

  • MIDs 237, 239, 240, 241 all refer to Greece
  • MIDs 351, 352, 353, 354, 355, 356, 357, 370, 371, 372, 373 all refer to Panama

In general, an additional MID is assigned to a country in cases where the MMSIs produced using the existing MID(s) is more than 80% exhausted and the rate of assignments is such that 90% exhaustion is foreseen. This is why countries with extensive maritime activity have multiple MIDs assigned to them.

The following table contains a list of the Maritime Identification Digits, the corresponding  Countries (remember that some Countries have more than one MID assigned to them) and the Short Code of the respective Country name.

MID

Country

Short Code

201

Albania

AL

202

Andorra

AD

203

Austria

AT

204

Portugal

PT

205

Belgium

BE

206

Belarus

BY

207

Bulgaria

BG

208

Vatican

VA

209

Cyprus

CY

210

Cyprus

CY

211

Germany

DE

212

Cyprus

CY

213

Georgia

GE

214

Moldova

MD

215

Malta

MT

216

Armenia

AM

218

Germany

DE

219

Denmark

DK

220

Denmark

DK

224

Spain

ES

225

Spain

ES

226

France

FR

227

France

FR

228

France

FR

229

Malta

MT

230

Finland

FI

231

Faroe Is

FO

232

United Kingdom

GB

233

United Kingdom

GB

234

United Kingdom

GB

235

United Kingdom

GB

236

Gibraltar

GI

237

Greece

GR

238

Croatia

HR

239

Greece

GR

240

Greece

GR

241

Greece

GR

242

Morocco

MA

243

Hungary

HU

244

Netherlands

NL

245

Netherlands

NL

246

Netherlands

NL

247

Italy

IT

248

Malta

MT

249

Malta

MT

250

Ireland

IE

251

Iceland

IS

252

Liechtenstein

LI

253

Luxembourg

LU

254

Monaco

MC

255

Portugal

PT

256

Malta

MT

257

Norway

NO

258

Norway

NO

259

Norway

NO

261

Poland

PL

262

Montenegro

ME

263

Portugal

PT

264

Romania

RO

265

Sweden

SE

266

Sweden

SE

267

Slovakia

SK

268

San Marino

SM

269

Switzerland

CH

270

Czech Republic

CZ

271

Turkey

TR

272

Ukraine

UA

273

Russia

RU

274

FYR Macedonia

MK

275

Latvia

LV

276

Estonia

EE

277

Lithuania

LT

278

Slovenia

SI

279

Serbia

RS

301

Anguilla

AI

303

USA

US

304

Antigua Barbuda

AG

305

Antigua Barbuda

AG

306

Curacao

CW

307

Aruba

AW

308

Bahamas

BS

309

Bahamas

BS

310

Bermuda

BM

311

Bahamas

BS

312

Belize

BZ

314

Barbados

BB

316

Canada

CA

319

Cayman Is

KY

321

Costa Rica

CR

323

Cuba

CU

325

Dominica

DM

327

Dominican Rep

DO

329

Guadeloupe

GP

330

Grenada

GD

331

Greenland

GL

332

Guatemala

GT

334

Honduras

HN

336

Haiti

HT

338

USA

US

339

Jamaica

JM

341

St Kitts Nevis

KN

343

St Lucia

LC

345

Mexico

MX

347

Martinique

MQ

348

Montserrat

MS

350

Nicaragua

NI

351

Panama

PA

352

Panama

PA

353

Panama

PA

354

Panama

PA

355

Panama

PA

356

Panama

PA

357

Panama

PA

358

Puerto Rico

PR

359

El Salvador

SV

361

St Pierre Miquelon

PM

362

Trinidad Tobago

TT

364

Turks Caicos Is

TC

366

USA

US

367

USA

US

368

USA

US

369

USA

US

370

Panama

PA

371

Panama

PA

372

Panama

PA

373

Panama

PA

374

Panama

PA

375

St Vincent Grenadines

VC

376

St Vincent Grenadines

VC

377

St Vincent Grenadines

VC

378

British Virgin Is

VG

379

US Virgin Is

VI

401

Afghanistan

AF

403

Saudi Arabia

SA

405

Bangladesh

BD

408

Bahrain

BH

410

Bhutan

BT

412

China

CN

413

China

CN

414

China

CN

416

Taiwan

TW

417

Sri Lanka

LK

419

India

IN

422

Iran

IR

423

Azerbaijan

AZ

425

Iraq

IQ

428

Israel

IL

431

Japan

JP

432

Japan

JP

434

Turkmenistan

TM

436

Kazakhstan

KZ

437

Uzbekistan

UZ

438

Jordan

JO

440

Korea

KR

441

Korea

KR

443

Palestine

PS

445

DPR Korea

KP

447

Kuwait

KW

450

Lebanon

LB

451

Kyrgyz Republic

KG

453

Macao

MO

455

Maldives

MV

457

Mongolia

MN

459

Nepal

NP

461

Oman

OM

463

Pakistan

PK

466

Qatar

QA

468

Syria

SY

470

UAE

AE

471

UAE

AE

472

Tajikistan

TJ

473

Yemen

YE

475

Yemen

YE

477

Hong Kong

HK

478

Bosnia and Herzegovina

BA

501

Antarctica

AQ

503

Australia

AU

506

Myanmar

MM

508

Brunei

BN

510

Micronesia

FM

511

Palau

PW

512

New Zealand

NZ

514

Cambodia

KH

515

Cambodia

KH

516

Christmas Is

CX

518

Cook Is

CK

520

Fiji

FJ

523

Cocos Is

CC

525

Indonesia

ID

529

Kiribati

KI

531

Laos

LA

533

Malaysia

MY

536

N Mariana Is

MP

538

Marshall Is

MH

540

New Caledonia

NC

542

Niue

NU

544

Nauru

NR

546

French Polynesia

PF

548

Philippines

PH

553

Papua New Guinea

PG

555

Pitcairn Is

PN

557

Solomon Is

SB

559

American Samoa

AS

561

Samoa

WS

563

Singapore

SG

564

Singapore

SG

565

Singapore

SG

566

Singapore

SG

567

Thailand

TH

570

Tonga

TO

572

Tuvalu

TV

574

Vietnam

VN

576

Vanuatu

VU

577

Vanuatu

VU

578

Wallis Futuna Is

WF

601

South Africa

ZA

603

Angola

AO

605

Algeria

DZ

607

St Paul Amsterdam Is

TF

608

Ascension Is

IO

609

Burundi

BI

610

Benin

BJ

611

Botswana

BW

612

Cen Afr Rep

CF

613

Cameroon

CM

615

Congo

CG

616

Comoros

KM

617

Cape Verde

CV

618

Antarctica

AQ

619

Ivory Coast

CI

620

Comoros

KM

621

Djibouti

DJ

622

Egypt

EG

624

Ethiopia

ET

625

Eritrea

ER

626

Gabon

GA

627

Ghana

GH

629

Gambia

GM

630

Guinea-Bissau

GW

631

Equ. Guinea

GQ

632

Guinea

GN

633

Burkina Faso

BF

634

Kenya

KE

635

Antarctica

AQ

636

Liberia

LR

637

Liberia

LR

642

Libya

LY

644

Lesotho

LS

645

Mauritius

MU

647

Madagascar

MG

649

Mali

ML

650

Mozambique

MZ

654

Mauritania

MR

655

Malawi

MW

656

Niger

NE

657

Nigeria

NG

659

Namibia

NA

660

Reunion

RE

661

Rwanda

RW

662

Sudan

SD

663

Senegal

SN

664

Seychelles

SC

665

St Helena

SH

666

Somalia

SO

667

Sierra Leone

SL

668

Sao Tome Principe

ST

669

Swaziland

SZ

670

Chad

TD

671

Togo

TG

672

Tunisia

TN

674

Tanzania

TZ

675

Uganda

UG

676

DR Congo

CD

677

Tanzania

TZ

678

Zambia

ZM

679

Zimbabwe

ZW

701

Argentina

AR

710

Brazil

BR

720

Bolivia

BO

725

Chile

CL

730

Colombia

CO

735

Ecuador

EC

740

UK

UK

745

Guiana

GF

750

Guyana

GY

755

Paraguay

PY

760

Peru

PE

765

Suriname

SR

770

Uruguay

UY

775

Venezuela

VE

Note that you can activate the MarineTraffic "AIS Flag Changed" Notification and be directly informed when any of the vessels that interest you the most changes her flag!