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History of HCG

102 years from the founding of the Hellenic Coast Guard (1919-1921)

The Hellenic Coast Guard was established as “Harbour Corps” (Greek: “Limeniko Soma”) by virtue of article 3 of Law 1753/1919. Under the provisions of this Law, the Hellenic Coast Guard was envisaged to operate under the then Ministry for Naval Affairs. The first staff members of the newly founded Corps were 60 officers of the Hellenic Navy, specialised in merchant marine affairs. Some of these officers became the first maritime attachés who were assigned to the Greek diplomatic missions in major ports around the globe. The maritime attaché of London in particular, played a crucial role in the reconstruction of the Greek merchant marine after the first World War.

The Hellenic Coast Guard saw action for the first time during the Greco-Turkish war of 1919-1922. During the second World War, the Hellenic Coast Guard was extensively mobilised. The Corps was responsible for the logistical support of the Greek armed forces, mainly via the requisition of Greek merchant vessels.

The creation of an independent ministry of merchant marine (staffed entirely by Hellenic Coast Guard personnel) in June 1944, was a major milestone in the history of the Hellenic Coast Guard. The new Ministry was faced with the urgent tasks of reconstructing the heavily damaged Greek merchant navy and reorganising maritime transport. Within the next few years, the Greek-run merchant fleet gradually adopted the Greek flag. As a result, Greek shipping became one of the most important industries of the nation, contributing heavily to the Greek financial miracle of the 50’s and 60’s. In 1968, the Greek Maritime Search and Rescue Centre was established in Piraeus; the unit was upgraded to Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC Piraeus) in 1989. In 1981, the Air Means Unit of the Hellenic Coast Guard was established, adding airborne maritime surveillance capability to the force.

The hosting of the 2004 summer Olympic Games in Athens, acted as a major driving force for a rapid growth and overall upgrading of the Hellenic Coast Guard, in terms of both human resources and technical equipment. During the first years of 2000s, the Hellenic Coast Guard acquired a large number of modern cutters (CPV/OPV) and aircraft and reached a total number of approximately 6,000 staff. During the same period, the developing European migrant crisis which culminated in the 2015 mass influx, placed the Hellenic Coast Guard at the epicentre of the operational theatre and led to further growth of its operational capabilities.

In the years to come, the Hellenic Coast Guard via increased funding and closer cooperation with the European Border and Coast Guard, is envisaged to develop even further and to evolve into one of the most highly trained and equipped Coast Guard forces in the European Union.