1926, eight years after Iceland regained its independence, the Icelandic
Coast Guard was formally established, having at that time been in
existence de facto for some years using chartered vessels. It is a
non-military service staffed with about 120 specially trained men,
headed by a Director General, and is subordinated to the Ministry of
Justice. The Coast Guard is a law enforcement force with the main task
of ensuring that Icelandic and international rules of law are observed
in Icelandic waters. The seas around the country that are under
surveillance by the Coast Guard stretch 200 nautical miles out from base
lines around the coast and cover about 758.000 square kilometres, or
nearly 7,5 times the area of Iceland. Although policing the seas is the
main task, the Coast Guard is charged with various other functions, the
most important being rescue work, and helping those in trouble
or distress at sea. The Coast Guard also performs
hydrographical surveying and gives assistance to the local
population in coastal areas when needed, undertakes
lighthouse duties and responsibilities in the country's
Coast Guard is responsible for the disposal of explosive devices
entangled in fishing gear or that has washed ashore and is tasked to
assist the police in defusing such devices when necessary.
To carry out its varied tasks the Coast Guard uses specially
built and specially equipped vessels, fixed-wing aircraft, and
helicopters. The vessels are reinforced for navigation in ice, and have
a helicopter hangar and platform. The vessels and helicopters are
specially equipped for salvage and rescue work. All vessels are armed
with one Bofors 40 mm cannon and carry hand weapons.
The Coast Guard has (1995) one Fokker Friendship (F 27) aircraft,
one Dauphin SA-365-N helicopter, one SA-350-B helicopter and took delivery of one Super Puma helicopter in June 1995. It has three
vessels (Tyr, Aegir and Odinn) with displacement from 1.200 to 1.300
The Minister of Finance is in
charge of customs' matters in Iceland. Customs officers, as well as
crewmembers on Coast Guard vessels, are members of the state police.
They are about 100 in number. The
collection of customs duties and enforcement of customs laws are carried
out by directors of customs. The country is divided into 27 customs
districts. Outside Reykjavik, the directors of customs are also district
commissioners, as mentioned earlier.
The Director General of Customs coordinates the work of the
directors of customs throughout the country. Within his office, there is
a Director of Customs Control. The
Directorate General of Customs operates a customs school.