The flag is flown from Sydney Ferries (at the other end to the Australian Red Ensign) and an email from the Sydney Ferries website says that it is the flag of the State Transit Authority.
A similar flag appeared being flown by a cruise liner on Sydney Harbour on a BBC television programme. On each side of the saltire in the canton was a device which was impossible to make out on the tv.
It is like a white ensign but the canton contain a red saltire with a white border on a blue field and the white letters "S" at 9 o'clock and "F" at 3 o'clock. The red st-george cross is defaced with four 8 pointed white stars.
If the flag is an STA flag, rather than a Sydney Ferries flag, why the "S" and "F"? Sydney Ferries and Sydney Buses, as part of the STA, are referred to as Sydney Buses and Ferries as often as they are separately. I also would have thought the flag would predate the use of the name "Sydney Ferries", although it is an assumption on my part to say that the name is more recent than STA-run ferries.
Sydney Ferries originated 1900 as Sydney Ferries Ltd. with a blue flag having a white saltire and the red letters "S" and "F" in hoist and fly respectively:
In 1951 the New South Wales Government took over the Sydney ferry services and operated as Sydney Harbour Ferries Pty. Ltd., now with a blue flag and red saltire with the white letters "S"(chief), "H" (hoist) and "F"(fly):
In December 1974 the company was reorganized as the New South Wales Public Transport Commission adopting the following year a blue flag with an emblem of 2 half arrows, white over light blue, pointing to hoist and fly respectively (shades of blue uncertain except one dark, the other light):
Then in 1983 it became the Urban Transport Commission but the flag was not changed until 1991 to the version shown except stars are given (source The Log 5/1991) as yellow with the flag being based on the badge of New South Wales, which has yellow stars, less the lion, whilst the canton incorporates facets of the flags of the first two companies. In 1995 there was another name change to State Transit - Sydney Ferries which is still in use. There are variances in dates and exact names from sources with "Sydney" for example replacing "New South Wales" but between Lloyds and the Australian maritime publication The Log this summary should be fairly accurate. If the stars are white now then a change appears to have been made.
Since July 2004, Sydney Ferries has been a separate corporation. I do not see any need for the flag to have changed, as it already specifically represented the Ferries.
The issue of the flags on the ferries came up on the Letters page of the Sydney Morning Herald last week, when a correspondent complained that the flags were quite tattered. Yesterday, the following response appeared:
Ferry standards raisedI refer to the letter from Don Easter (November 15) regarding the flags on Sydney Ferries Corporation's Freshwater class vessels. I am pleased to advise that new red ensigns, the standard marine flag for Australian vessels, and new Sydney Ferries Corporation flags were hoisted on all Freshwater class Manly ferries last week. These flags are now flying with pride on our iconic vessels.
Sue Sinclair chief executive officer, Sydney Ferries Corporation, Sydney