A ship built, converted, or equipped specially or solely with a view to assisting, treating, and transporting the  wounded, sick, and shipwreckedIn case of international armed conflict, its name and description must be notified to the parties to the conflict ten days before it is employed. It may not be attacked or captured and must be respected and protected. The religious and medical personnel and crew of hospital ships have a right to the same protection.

The distinctive sign for the protection of hospital ships is the emblem of the red cross, red crescent or red crystal on a white ground. The lifeboats and coastal lifeboats of hospital ships are treated in the same way as hospital ships. So, as far as possible, are the sick-bays of a warship.
Hospital ships are bound to afford relief and assistance to the wounded, sick and shipwrecked without distinction of nationality. The parties to the conflict have the right to stop and visit hospital ships in accordance with precise regulations.
Any warship belonging to a belligerent may demand, on certain conditions, that sick, wounded or shipwrecked persons on board a hospital ship shall be handed over.






Suggested reading:
GRIMORD D. L. & RIGGS G. W., “The Unique and Protected Status of Hospital Ships under the Law of Armed Conflict”, in JACQUES Richard B. (ed.), “Issues in International Law and Military Operations”, in International Law Studies, Vol. 80, 2006, pp. 263-273.
JUNOD Sylvie S., Protection of the Victims of Armed Conflict Falkland-Malvinas Islands(1982): International Humanitarian Law and Humanitarian Action, Geneva, ICRC, 1985, 45 pp.
Further reading:
BOUVIER Antoine, “Humanitarian Protection and Armed Conflicts at Sea: Means and Methods of Identifying Protected Craft”, in SyracuseJournal of International Law and Commerce, Vol. 14, 1988, pp. 759-765.
CAUDERAY Gerald C. & BOUVIER Antoine, Manual for the Use of Technical Means of Identifications by Hospital Ships, Coastal Rescue Craft, Other Protected Craft and Medical Aircraft, Geneva, ICRC, 1995, 196 pp.
DOSWALD-BECK Louise, “Vessels, Aircraft and Persons Entitled to Protection During Armed Conflicts at Sea”, The British Year Book of International Law, 1994, 211-238 pp.
EBERLIN Philippe, “The Identification of Medical Aircraft in Periods of Armed Conflict. Identification of Hospital Ships and Ships Protected by the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949”, in IRRC, No. 229 & 231, November-December 1982, 31 pp.
EBERLIN Philippe, “Underwater Acoustic Identification of Hospital Ships”, in IRRC, No. 267, November-December 1988, pp. 505-518
EBERLIN Philippe, “The Protection of Rescue Craft in Period of Armed Conflict”, in IRRC, No. 246, June 1985, 16 pp.
PREUX Jean de, “Protection du sauvetage maritime côtier”, in Studies and Essays on International Humanitarian Law and Red Cross Principles in Honour of Jean Pictet, Geneva, ICRC, The Hague, M. Nijhoff, 1984, pp. 103-111.