coast guard

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coast guard,

special naval force assigned to seaboard duties. Its primary responsibilities usually consist in suppressing contraband trade and aiding vessels in distress. The British coast guard was established just after the Napoleonic Wars for the purpose of preventing smuggling. When the Coast Guard Act of 1856 put this task under the direction of the admiralty, the British coast guard was reorganized to perform coast-watching and lifesaving duties. In the United States a coast guard was formed in 1915 when an act of Congress combined the Revenue Cutter Service with the Life Saving Service. The cutter service had been established by Congress in 1790, at the suggestion of Alexander Hamilton, to prevent smuggling; until the creation of the navy in 1798 it was the only U.S. armed service afloat. The Life Saving Service developed some years later. The U.S. Coast Guard subsequently absorbed the Lighthouse Service (1939) and the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation (1942). In peacetime the Coast Guard is under the jurisdiction (since 2003) of the Dept. of Homeland Security; in wartime, and for such other periods as the president may direct, it is under the control of the navy. In addition to its rescue and antismuggling activities, the service enforces navigation rules and maintains jurisdiction over the regulations concerning the construction and equipment of merchant ships and over the licensing of merchant marine officers and seamen. It also operates and maintains weather ships, an ice patrol in the N Atlantic, and various navigational aids, including lighthouses, lightships, buoys, and loran stations. The Coast Guard Academy, for the training of officers, is located in New London, Conn.


See studies by M. F. Willoughby (1957), H. R. Kaplan (1972), and G. Gurney (1973).

coast guard

[′kōst ‚gärd]
A naval force which guards a coast and ensures the order, safety, and effective operation of traffic on the coastal waters.
References in periodicals archive ?
Committee chairman Louise Ellman said: "We accept there is a need for some modernisation, but the Government's proposals for the future of the Coastguard Service are seriously flawed.
THE Scottish government are seeking views on whether coastguard services should be devolved from Westminster to Holyrood.
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The directive also tells the Commission to conduct a feasibility study into setting up a European coastguard service.
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Now you may think that this is farfetched, but already the Coastguard Service for the UK has been decimated with local stations closed down, the whole of the coastline being "watched" by a handful of control centres miles away from the scene of a disaster, and with little chance of the duty officer having any local knowledge, so vital in saving lives.
However, today when I questioned UK Secretary of State for the Environment Owen Paterson he could not defend his Government's cuts to the Coastguard service, which will inevitably put more people at risk when we face extreme weather events.