A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Jeremy C
Date: 2020 Mar 18, 02:08 -0700
Simply put, they should not have been flying that flag, but were probably doing so because their procedures manual states that they must, even if they don't fulfill the criteria to fly it. The yellow Quebec flag actually means "I am healthy and request free pratique." In some ports you must fly it until the health officials board and confirm that you are healthy and then you must strike it. Cargo workers will not board the vessel until free pratique has been granted and the flag is struck. In some ports, free pratique is granted by "radio" (really email) after a clear declaration of health is submitted by the Master and no flag is required at all.
In this case, the ship was NOT healthy and would not be issued free pratique, and therefore flying the Q flag is inappropriate. Still, ISM (international safety management) procedures trump truth and tradition, so they needed to fly it to fulfill some checklist(s). If they were to fly any flag, it should have been whiskey which means "I require medical assistance."
In a way it's pointless because everyone knew it was a sick ship and was going to a quarantine berth. Shipping has become very procedure orientated and the ability to deal with unusual situations like this has been greatly diminished.