Coast Guard Command
Sahil Güvenlik Komutanlığı
As a law enforcing armed force, Turkish Coast Command is responsible to Ministry of Internal Affairs in terms of assigned duties and operations along the Turkish coastline, in its internal waters such as the Marmara Sea, Istanbul and Çanakkale Straits, seaports, bays, territorial waters, exclusive economic zones, and all maritime areas that are under Turkish sovereignty and control in accordance with the national and international laws.
Formed in 1982 as the maritime wing of the gendarmerie, the coast guard is now separate but also reports to the Ministry of Interior. With a personnel strength of about 1,100, the coast guard is responsible for maintaining the security of the coast and territorial waters, for conducting missions to protect its Exclusive Economic Zone in the Aegean--the boundaries of which are under dispute with Greece--for search-and-air-rescue operations, and for protecting the marine environment. The coast guard is organized into four area commands: the Black Sea, the Sea of Marmara and adjacent straits, the Aegean Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea.
Surface patrols are carried out by fifty-two patrol vessels and smaller craft. The most effective of these are fourteen search-and-rescue vessels of 220 tons, all built years in Turkish shipyards. Smaller 150-ton and 70-ton patrol boats of German origin were nearing obsolescence in the mid-1990s. An ambitious construction plan foresaw a major strengthening of the service with eight new vessels of 350 to 400 tons and forty-eight ships of 180 to 300 tons. A number of helicopters and aircraft were to be acquired to expand a small maritime air unit of three United States-manufactured OH-58 (Jet Ranger) helicopters.
Throughout history, Turkish people have established long-lasting and well-structured states and committed their hearts and souls to the safety and security of their state and citizens. Lessons from the past have taught that the security of littoral states can only be ensured by starting the security process from the furthest point at seas, instead of operating within the mainland only.
The efforts concerning the foundation of the Coast Guard Organization date back to the second half of the 19th century. During this period, as a result of the Industrial Revolution in Europe, as well as the developments in the production and international trade, customs related issues such as combating smuggling became a more important agenda item.
During the Ottoman times, each customs organization was named considering its location and types of goods trafficked through. Of all, the ones on the coasts were called "Border Customs Offices" whereas the ones within the mainland were termed "Inland Customs Offices". Coastal Customs inspected both domestic and foreign commerce. Customs tax was a very important source of revenue for the state. However there were problems and complaints about the procedures used to collect taxes. This caused owners of goods resort to illegal ways.
In this period, protection of the coasts, prevention and monitoring of smuggling which fell within the responsibility area of Rural Customs Administrations were conducted inefficiently due to the lack of contact between these Administrations and dispersed structure of the organization. In order to eliminate this organizational problem, organizational structure underwent a revision . As a result, Rural Customs Administrations were brought under the umbrella of Istanbul Goods Customs Directorate in 1859 and the name of the instruction was changed as "Deposit Office". The first Director of the Deposit Office was Mehmet Kani Pasa.
During the Reforms (Tanzimat) Era, a noticeable surge in smuggling took place, mostly due to the increase in customs tax rates following the trade agreement signed between the Ottoman Empire and other countries in 1861. In order to increase the effectiveness of the struggle against smuggling, the establishment of a new institution was agreed upon, and the "Customs Enforcement Organization" was founded under the Deposit Office. Afterwards, "Coastal Divisions" were established under the Gendarmerie Force in 1886, for the purpose of providing security and carry out coast guard duties along the maritime borders.
At the early days of the Republic Era, "Laws on Banning and Tracking Smuggling" (No: 1126 and 1510) were put into force. On October 1, 1929, "Customs Tariff Law" was put into force. With this law in effect, increase was observed in the number of smuggling cases due to the high increase in the tax amounts. Thus smuggling significantly increased especially at our southern borders.
As a result, "General Command of Customs Guard" was founded under the Law numbered 1841 with a semi- military identity for the purpose of executing customs-related duties such as searching, pursuing and preventing seaborne smuggling as well as ensuring the security of Turkey's territorial waters, on 27 July 1931, with the Law numbered 1841. In 1932, it started to function under the body of the General Staff. The "Law Banning and Pursuing Smuggling" (No: 1917) foresaw detention of the suspected criminal accused for smuggling until the finalization of the court proceedings. According to the same law, the penalty could not be postponed and the criminal could be banished. Following the introduction of the Law No. 3015 in 1936, the maritime organization under the General Command of Customs Guard gained a military character and it was entrusted with the task of ensuring security and safety within Turkish territorial waters.
Until 1956, the General Command of Customs Guard had continued to function under the General Staff in terms of its duties concerning the security of maritime borders and training of the staff, and under the Ministry of Customs and Monopoly in terms of enforcement of the tariffs.
With the Law No. 6815 on "the Transfer of Our Borders, Coasts and Territorial Waters' Protection and Anti-Smuggling Activities to the Ministry of Internal Affairs" adopted on July 16, 1956, the duties of prevention and pursuit of smuggling, protection and security of the borders, coasts and territorial waters were delegated to the General Command of Gendarmerie under the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the General Command of Customs Guard was abolished. It was at this time that the Gendarmerie Regional Sea Commands were founded in Samsun, Izmir and Mersin as subordinate commands. In addition, the Maritime Branch was formed within the General Command of the Gendarmerie headquarters.
On April 15, 1957, Gendarmerie Aegean Sea Region Command was founded with a responsibility area starting from Enez, at the maritime border between Turkey and Greece, up to Kocaçay at the maritime border between Mugla and Antalya. In 1968, Gendarmerie Black Sea Region Command was founded with a responsibility area which is between Artvin-Kemalpasa, the maritime border between Turkey and Russia, and Begendik, the maritime border between Turkey and Bulgaria. On July 15, 1971, Gendarmerie Mediterranean Sea Region Command was established with a responsibility area which is between Hatay- Güvercinkaya, the maritime border between Turkey and Syria, and Kocaçay, the maritime border between Antalya and Mugla.
As a consequence of the changes observed in the international security environment in 1960s, the geo-strategic location of Turkey, the length of its coasts, and the prerequisites of being a maritime nation, it soon became clear that the Turkish Republic needed a new and more professional Coast Guard Command. Furthermore, efforts on the establishment of the Coast Guard Command gained pace as of 1967 due to the lack of necessary law enforcement forces that could impose various bans set out by laws under the services of Ministries having duties over territorial waters and seas.
As a result of the efforts within this framework, the Coast Guard Command Law (No. 2692) was adopted on July 9, 1982 and the Turkish Coast Guard Command was established after the publication of the Law in the Official Gazette on July 13, 1982. With this change, the Gendarmerie Regional Sea Commands under the General Command of Gendarmerie were placed under the Turkish Coast Guard Command, and later was named as Coast Guard Black Sea, Aegean Sea, and Mediterranean Sea Region Commands.
The Coast Guard Command started to operate effectively as of September 1, 1982. However, it was bound to function under the General Command of Gendarmerie until 1985 in accordance with the provisional article No. 1 of the Law No. 2692.
As the responsibility of Marmara Sea and the Turkish Straits was entrusted with the Coast Guard Command in accordance with the Coast Guard Command Law No. 2692, a main sub-command was added to its organizational structure in order to carry out its duties in the most effective manner. The Coast Guard Marmara and Straits Command was commissioned on October 1982.
In order for the Coast Guard Command to execute its duties more effectively, a headquarters was required in the center of the capital, Ankara. After the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Affairs had moved from its centrally located building on Karanfil Street, the premise was allocated for the use of the Headquarters of the Turkish Coast Guard Command.
Turkish Coast Guard Command, which functioned under the body of the Gendarmerie General Command until January 1, 1985, continued its activities as an armed law enforcement unit which is responsible to the Ministry of Internal Affairs in terms of its duties and service, in peace time, within the cadres and organization of the Turkish Armed Forces and will enter under the command of Turkish Naval Force in wartime and crisis, with a responsibility area covering along the Turkish coastline, Turkish internal waters such as the Marmara Sea, Istanbul and Çanakkale Straits, seaports, bays, territorial waters, exclusive economic zones, and all maritime areas that are under Turkish sovereignty and control in accordance with the national and international laws.
In 1993, main sub-commands of Coast Guard Command were re-named as regional commands as follows:
- Coast Guard Marmara and Straits Region Command
- Coast Guard Black Sea Region Command
- Coast Guard Mediterranean Region Command v Coast Guard Aegean Sea Region Command
On January, 16, 2006, the Coast Guard Command moved from its headquarters of twenty-four years on Karanfil Street to a new and modern building on Merasim Street, Bakanliklar; a premise matching the significance of its duties.
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