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A coast guard or coastguard is a maritime security organization of a particular country. The term implies widely different responsibilities in different countries, from being a heavily armed military force with customs and security duties to being a volunteer organization tasked with search and rescue functions and lacking any law enforcement powers. However, a typical coast guard’s functions distinct from typical functions of both the navy (a pure military force) and a transportation police.
- Among the responsibilities that may be entrusted to a coast guard service are: search and rescue, enforcement of maritime law, safety of vessels, maintenance of seamarks and border control During wartime, some coast guard organizations might have responsibilities in harbor defense, port security, naval counter-intelligence and coastal patrols.
- For example, the U.S. Coast Guard is a military branch with a law enforcement capacity, whereas the United Kingdom’s Her Majesty’s Coastguard is a civilian organisation whose only role is search and rescue.
- Most coast guards operate ships and aircraft including helicopters and seaplanes that are either owned or leased by the agency in order to fulfill their respective roles.
- Some coast guards, such as the Irish Coast Guard have only a very limited law enforcement role, usually in enforcing maritime safety law, such as by inspecting ships docked in their jurisdiction.
- In cases where the coast guard is primarily concerned with coordinating rather than executing rescue operations, lifeboats are often provided by civilian voluntary organizations, such as the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in the United Kingdom, whilst aircraft may be provided by the countries’ armed forces, such as Sea Kings operated by the RAF and Royal Navy in addition to any of the coast guard’s own assets.
- The duty of patrolling its coastline falls to the Royal Australian Navy, the Australian Customs (through its Border Protection Command division), and the Police services of the states.
- In addition, there are several private volunteer coast guard organizations, the two largest organizations being the Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol (established in 1937) and the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard (established in 1961).
- CCG also operates all federal scientific research and hydrographic survey vessels.
- The China Coast Guard serves as a coordinating body for maritime search and rescue in the territorial waters of the People’s Republic of China.
- FLEC’s responsibilities include protecting Chinese fishing vessels and personnel, resolving disputes in fishing activities, preventing illegal fishing, and protecting maritime resources.
- The German Federal Coast Guard, known as the Küstenwache, is both a civilian service and a law enforcement organization, staffed with both police officers and certain civilians from the various German federal agencies associated with maritime administration with responsibility for the coordination of all law enforcement activities within its jurisdiction.
- It is a paramilitary organization that can support the Hellenic Navy in wartime, but resides under separate civilian control in times of peace.
- The purpose of the Irish Coast Guard is: To reduce the loss of life within the Irish Search and Rescue Region and on rivers, lakes and waterways and to protect the quality of the marine environment within the Irish Pollution Responsibility Zone, Harbours and Maritime Local Authority areas and to preserve property.
- It has no role in the maintenance of seamarks which is instead the responsibility of Trinity House, the Northern Lighthouse Board (in Scotland) and the Commissioners of Irish Lights (in Northern Ireland), nor has it any concern with customs enforcement, which is the responsibility of the UK Border Agency.
- It is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States and one of the five elements of the United States Armed Forces.
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