May 28, 2021 (Google Translation) – The sailing vessel Zenobe Gramme and the harbor tugs of the Navy de Mier, de Wasp and de Zeemeeuw officially changed their flag during a ceremony that took place on 28 May at the naval base of Zeebrugge.
The creation of this new flag dates back to October 2018, when the Navy was looking for an innovative way to take civilian crew members on board for certain assignments. The current Navy flag did not allow that possibility. Under the new colors, a military, civilian or mixed crew can sail. This gives the Navy great flexibility.
The Navy’s auxiliary ships are no longer warships but still enjoy sovereign immunity both on the high seas and in territorial or inland waters. They are owned or operated or chartered solely by the Ministry of National Defense for a non-commercial government service.
The Navy auxiliary ships concept is based on the British Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) statute . The Royal Navy has been using such RFA ships for a hundred years to support its other ships with a combat mission to conduct operations on all the world’s seas. The RFA ships are commanded by a civilian captain and the crew also consists of civilians. However, those citizens are required to be part of the Royal Navy Reserve . In the event of war or deployment in the context of an armed conflict, they are then activated as reservists.