A coast guard is a national organization responsible for various services at sea. However the term implies widely different responsibilities in different countries. Among the responsibilities that may be entrusted to a coast guard service are Maritime / Sea Rescue, enforcement of maritime law, maintenance of seamarks, border control, and other services. During wartime coast guards might be responsible for harbour defense, port security, naval counterintelligence and coastal patrols.
In some countries it is part of the military. In a few countries it is a civilian or even private sector organization. Most coast guards operate ships and aircraft including helicopters and seaplanes for this purpose.
In some countries (such as Ireland) the coast guard has a limited law enforcement and is the co-ordinating agency for maritime rescue but enforcement powers are growing dealing with maritime safety law, i.e. the Marine Safety bill and the Merchant Shipping act, and has officially become part of the uniformed services and assistance may come from other organizations in the rescue role. In these cases, lifeboats may be provided by civilian voluntary organizations, such as the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, whilst aircraft may be provided by the countries' armed forces Aircorps and Naval service, in addition to any coast guard owned assets. In the United States, the U.S. Coast Guard is a military branch that has law enforcement as one of its missions.
The Racing Stripe symbol is a narrow blue bar, a narrow white stripe between, and a broad red bar with the USCG shield centered. The stripes are canted at a 64 degree angle, coincidentally the year the Racing Stripe was designed.
The Racing Stripe symbol has been adopted by many coast guards, such as the Canadian Coast Guard, the Italian Guardia Costiera, the French Maritime Gendarmerie, the Indian Coast Guard, the German Federal Coast Guard, and the Australian Customs Service, either in its original colors or as modified by each individual coast guard. Auxiliary vessels maintained by the USCG also carry the Racing Stripe in inverted colors.
The following lists a select number of coast guards around the world, illustrating the varied roles they play in the respective countries they operate in:
Bangladesh Coast Guard was formed on 14 February 1995. Its officers are transferred from the Bangladesh Navy. It is under the Ministry of Home Affairs (Bangladesh) but its officers came from the Bangladesh Navy.
In France, there are no Coast Guards, per se. But, in each region, a Naval Admiral, called Préfet Maritime, is in charge of coordination of all state services for action at sea (Navy, police, gendarmerie, customs, fishery survey ...). The charity, Société Nationale de Sauvetage en Mer, provides most life saving duties.
See main article: Pakistan Coast Guard. In Pakistan, the Pakistani Coast Guard is responsible for protecting and keeping a lookout for the country's coastlines in terms of strategic security, as well as carrying out implementations in accordance with conductive law and order.
The Icelandic Coast Guard is primarily a law enforcement organization and is subordinate to the Ministry of Justice. It is however commonly involved in military operations and exercises, such as Enduring Freedom and Northern Challenge.
In the United States, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) is both a military and a law enforcement organization. It is one of the seven components of the Uniformed services of the United States and one of the five elements of the United States Armed Forces.
During peacetime the USCG falls under the administration of the United States Department of Homeland Security. During wartime, the USCG may, at the direction of the President of the United States, report to the Secretary of the Navy but does not become part of the US Navy and is not part of the Department of Defense; however, its boats and cutters are integrated into U.S. military operations (see ).
The U.S. Coast Guard Academy and Officer Candidate School are located in New London, Connecticut. The Coast Guard's Training Center Petaluma located in Petaluma, California provides assignment training (also known as "A-schools") as well as its Chief Petty Officers Academy. The United States Coast Guard Training Center Cape May in Cape May, New Jersey is the Coast Guard's only Recruit Training Center. Many other countries' naval forces are comparable in size and/or strength to the USCG. The USCG enables the US Navy to concentrate on its main mission of power projection — while the USCG manages maritime security, port security, and coastal patrols.
The Posse Comitatus Act prohibits the other branches of United States armed services from enforcing U.S. laws, with the exception of the USCG. Thus, the USCG provides Law Enforcement Detachments (LEDETs) to US Navy ships and the members of the LEDETs do the actual boarding, interdiction and arrests with the assistance of US Navy personnel.
In 1917, Congress passed and President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the Espionage Act, authorizing the Treasury Secretary to assume control of U.S. ports, control ship movements, establish anchorages and supervise the loading and storage of explosive cargoes. The authority was immediately delegated to the Coast Guard and formed the basis for the formation of the Coast Guard's Captain of the Ports and the Port Security Program. This established the basis for the current involvement in Homeland Security.
The USCG maintains an extensive fleet of coastal and ocean-going patrol ships, called cutters by tradition, and small craft, as well as an extensive aviation division consisting of HH-65 Dolphin and HH-60 Jayhawk helicopters, including fixed wing aircraft such as the C-130 Hercules and the HU-25 Guardian. USCG helicopters are equipped with hoists to rescue survivors and also play a major role in law enforcement. The helicopters are able to land and take off from USCG cutters, making them an indispensable tool in fighting illegal drug traffic and the influx of illegal migrants. The fixed wing aircraft are used for long range search and rescue and law enforcement patrols.
In Taiwan, the Coast Guard Adminisration (ROCCGA) is both a military and a law enforcement organization. The ROCCGA is considered a civilian law enforcement agency under the administration of the Executive Yuan, though during wartime it may be incorporated as part of the military.
ROCCGA is instituted Maritime Patrol Directorate General and Coast Patrol Directorate General. Officers of Maritime Patrol Directorate General are law executors, but officers of Coast Patrol Directorate General are soldiers who have partial law-enforcement power.
In Malaysia, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) or Malaysian Coast Guard is part of the Malaysian Civil Service and is placed under the Prime Minister's Department. The Agency is headed by a Director General who is appointed by the Yang Di Pertuan Agong (King) on the advice of the Prime Minister while other personnel are appointed by the Public Service Commission. It is tasked with enforcing national and international laws, coordinates search and rescue operations and other matters incidental to maritime enforcement in the Malaysian Maritime Zone and on the high seas. In times of war, special crisis or emergency, the Agency may be placed under the command of the Malaysian Armed Forces by order of the Minister.
In Singapore, the Police Coast Guard (PCG) is an operational department of the Singapore Police Force. Functions of the coast guard were transferred from the Republic of Singapore Navy to what was then the Marine Police in February 1993 http://www.mindef.gov.sg/imindef/resources/speeches/1998/18apr98_speech.html. The Marine Police was thus restructured and renamed as the Police Coast Guard, one of the few law enforcement organisations in the world to combine water policing and coast guard duties while remaining as a policing unit.
In the Philippines, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is a maritime law enforcement agency operating under the Department of Transportation and Communications of the Philippine government. It is tasked with the broader enforcement of maritime laws, especially against smuggling, illegal fishing, drug trafficking and piracy. It patrols the country's 36,289-kilometer coastline, and is also involved in maritime search and rescue (SAR) missions, as well as the protection of the marine environment.
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.
The CCG holds responsibility for all marine search and rescue in Canada. The CCG coordinates search and rescue operations with the Canadian Forces, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and other organizations. The CCG maintains and operates seamarks, coastal light stations, vessel traffic services, marine pollution response services, marine communications systems and provides icebreaking services. CCG also operates all federal scientific research and hydrographic survey vessels. To accomplish these tasks, CCG has a sizeable fleet of vessels and aircraft, all serviced from various bases and smaller stations located on three coasts (Atlantic, Arctic, Pacific) and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.
The Royal New Zealand Coastguard is a civilian volunteer charitable organisation, providing search and rescue services to coastal waterways and some lakes in New Zealand. Smaller incidents are coordinated by the New Zealand Police, who may call on the services and resources of the coastguard. Larger incidents are managed by the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ), with support from the New Zealand Defence Force.
In the United Kingdom, Her Majesty's Coastguard is purely concerned with search and rescue. 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). Neither has it any concern with customs enforcement, which is the responsibility of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs. HM Coastguard does not possess all-weather lifeboats, instead calling on those of the volunteer Royal National Lifeboat Institution and other independent Lifeboats, although it often wet leases commercial helicopters — mainly Sikorsky S-61s — and tugs to provide search and rescue cover in certain areas. It does, however, maintain a number of search, cliff and mud rescue teams as well as some inshore rescue boats and is a coordinating body and public face for the maritime search and rescue services. It is part of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.