The Italian Coast Guard (full name: Corps of Harbour Masters and Coast Guard – in Italian ''Corpo delle Capitanerie di Porto – Guardia Costiera'') is a Corps of the Italian Navy whose tasks and functions are mainly connected to the civil use of the sea. For the major part of its functions it is governed by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport and, for the other tasks, it operates on behalf of other Ministries, such as: the Ministry of Environment, Land Protection and Sea; the Ministry for Agriculture, Food and Forestry Policies; the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and the Department of the Civil Protection
20th July 1865: (Royal Decree no. 2438): the Corps of Harbour Masters was founded by the union of two existing bodies: the Harbours General Staff and Naval Consuls. The first was a military corps with technical skills in the harbor field; the second being a civilian corps, with mainly administration tasks. The new born Corps, combining technical and military elements of both bodies, has to deal with a wider and complex amount of tasks, related one another by the navigation theme, being about shipping and military at the same time.
8th December 1910: (Royal Decree no. 857) the General Inspectorate of the Italian Coast Guard was founded; it acted as a supervisor to control subsidiary offices.
May 1915: on the eve of the Italian entry into the war, by a legislative measure, the personnel of the Corps were entitled to a higher status and to military stars.
February 1918: the Ministry of Navy assigned the Coast Guard tasks related to military defense on a permanent basis, therefore all staff were militarized for the war period, until 6 months after the armistice was signed. The process of militarization became then official in November 1919.
September 1923: the Coast Guard was to be included in the group of military corps of the Royal Navy. This event was significant since it gave the corps the status it enjoys now.
11th November 1938: the General Inspectorate of the Coast Guard was replaced by the General Command; the law set out duties and organization issues of the new body tasks of the military and civilian workforce, the internal organization of the Corps as well as defining military tasks about seamen, merchant shipping and mercantile ports.
2nd World War: the bravery of the Corps was proved by in countless occasions during those years, as shown by the many Military Gallantry Medal awarded to the personnel.
1948: the Corps was controlled by the Ministry of the Merchant Navy and started to carry out tasks for this department.
1982: the Law on Sea Defense gave to the Coast Guard new tasks aimed to protect coasts and marine ecosystems. They nonetheless needed new equipment and also new skills: the air division was added and its base established in Sarzana; the first pilots and specialists were appointed.
1989: the new situation led the Ministry of Shipping Navy and Defense to select a new denomination for the corps; therefore the name “Coast Guard” was chosen. The Corps then featured both a naval and air fleet.
1994: Italy enforced the 1979 Hamburg Convention. It established, in the framework of the General Command of the Coast Guard – created in 1994 to replace the General Inspectorate, the creation of Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (I.M.R.C.C.). This is a highly specialized body, able to take action issues such as maritime rescue, environmental remote sensing, and also fishing vessels, supported by advanced technology and devices.
Organization and personnel
The Italian Coast Guard Headquarters is located in Rome, at the premises of the Italian Ministry of Infrastructure and Transports, and it is organized as follows:
- General Commandant (Vice Admiral Felicio ANGRISANO) and his support offices;
- Deputy General Commandant and his support offices;
- 7 Departments (1st Personnel and Training, 2nd Institutional Services and Legal Affairs, 3rd Plans and Operations, 4th Equipment and Materials, 5th Administration and Logistics, 6th Maritime Safety and Security, 7th Traffic Monitoring Systems, IT & Communication);
The headquarters includes the Marine Environmental Dpt. (RAM), under the control of the Ministry of Environment Sea and Land Protection, and also the Maritime Fishing Dpt. (RPM), under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. According the Hamburg Convention, the Italian Coast Guard is the National Search and Rescue Competent Authority at sea and its Headquarters host the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (IMRCC). Moreover, the Italian Coast Guard Headquarters hosts the Regional Server of the Mediterranean AIS system (named MARES) and it is the National Competent Authority and operational point of contact regarding to the SafeSeaNet, the Clean Sea Net and the Ship Security Alert system.
At a local level, the ITCG Commands are the peripheral functional expression of the Ministry of Infrastructures and Transports. They are subdivided into hierarchical order as follows:
- n. 15 Regional Maritime Offices (which are the Maritime Rescue Coordination Sub-Centres)
- n. 55 Maritime Compartments Offices
- n. 51 Maritime District Offices
- n. 128 Local Maritime Offices
The whole number of the Italian Coast Guard personnel amounts at 11.000 women and men divided into Officers, Petty Officers, Troops and Volunteers.
Officers are recruited annually and a yearly basis to attend the Naval Academy of Livorno, which is a 5 years course based principally on Government and Sea Management, aiming at providing students with a juridical and administrative knowledge, with competences in maritime transport and port management issues, as well as environmental protection and marine resources.
Petty Officers as well, they need to pass an admission test to attend a 3 years course to be held at the Navy School in Taranto. This course provide them a grade in “Naval an Maritime Management and Organization Science”.
Volunteers (and troops) recruited on a yearly basis, they can, upon request, stay for a longer period of 4 years, after passing a specific exam. After that period, they can join the permanent service (Troops).
Tasks and Duties
Search and Rescue (SAR) Search and rescue at sea are the primary commitment of the Italian Coast Guard. The operational activity extends far beyond the boundaries of territorial waters, including more than 500,000km2 of sea. The Headquarters, through its Control Center, adopts the functions of National Coordination Center for the maritime rescue (Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Center) and it is supported by 15 Sub-Centers, located at the Regional Maritime Offices, and several Coast Guard Unit, located at the Maritime Compartments and District Offices.
Blue number In case of emergency, throughout the national territory, a free call number “1530” is available in order to report any distress at sea. The services is available 24 hours a day.
Safety for the navigation The Coast Guard carries out its technical and administrative skills concerning the safety of navigation by controlling and checking all the national merchant vessels, fishing vessels and yachts and with the International agreement, also all the foreign merchant vessels which inbound national ports.
Fishing The Italian Coast Guard, on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is the Fishing Control National Coordination Authority. The fishing activities are supervised at sea by the Coast Guard naval units and it is monitored with modern satellite systems that ensure greater security of fisherman. The catch is controlled at the point of disembark and sale to verify that the marketed species are not among those prohibited and have the measures provided by the legislation.
Environmental protection Law no. 979 of 31st December 1982 states that one of the Coast Guard main task is sea and coastal monitoring, along with the activities devoted to prevent pollution and damages to marine environment. Italy signed the most International and Regional Conventions on biodiversity, sea and coastal protection.
Vessel Traffic Monitoring and Information System For the prevention and surveillance on safety at sea the coast guard uses technological system such as Vessel Traffic Service (V.T.S.) and the Automatic Identification System (A.I.S.) that allow to constantly monitor the performance of maritime traffic while ensuring salient data communications for the navigation either for ships and with the countries of the Mediterranean area. The use of these new technologies is essential for the risk reduction and higher safety of navigation.
Administrative activities Of great importance is the activity carried out by the administrative offices located on the territory: with its personnel the ITCG is a point of reference for all maritime activities of state jurisdiction.
Pleasure craft The Coast Guard ensures peace of mind and help to those who go by sea. To this end, specific activities, such as prevention, information and control, are planned to ensure that boat owners and swimmers, especially in the summer, are safe.