North Atlantic Coast Guard Forum - France

France – a maritime nation

With more than 11 million square kilometres of seas, France is bounded by the second largest maritime surface in the world, after the USA. Given its overseas territories, France has a maritime presence in all seas. Metropolitan France is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the English Channel and the Mediterranean Sea. With its overseas departments and territories, France is also present in the North Atlantic (Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, French Antilles, French Guyana).

French maritime presence and authorities on the seas

French maritime organization

The General Secretariat for the Sea, established in 1995, leads France’s maritime policies. Under the direct authority of the Prime Minister, its role is to ensure coherence with government decisions concerning coast guard functions among 15 ministerial departments and agencies. Its mission is to control, evaluate and forecast maritime policies.

Under the direct authority of the Prime Minister, and in concert with the ministries and relevant organizations, the General Secretariat for the Sea ensures at the central level the coordination of the State’s maritime activities. It studies and proposes measures that seek to improve efficiencies in the State’s actions.

In December 2009, an inter-ministerial Committee adopted the “Blue Book,” a national strategy for the sea and oceans, which is reflected in the European Union’s developing maritime policy. In order to give weight to this maritime goal, the Prime Minister and the Committee also adopted a series of concrete measures, including the creation of the Coast Guard function.

The Coast Guard function

The State’s activities and law enforcement at sea extend to more than 45 mandates (including fighting marine pollution, illegal fishing, illegal migration and drug trafficking, and ensuring safe marine transport and maritime security, etc.) as enacted by law, implicating more than 10 ministerial departments. The mechanism for action by the State and the application of the law at sea rests on two foundations: the coordination among various organizations with the appropriate competencies and sea assets, and the involvement of the Ministry of Defence, and the Navy in particular.

Directly under the authority of the Prime Minister, the States’ activities at sea are driven by the General Secretariat of the Sea and articulated by the local Préfets maritimes and the Government’s delegates for the State’s activities at sea.

Organisational diagram of the General Secretariat for the Sea

The establishment of the coast guard function is also the result of collaborative efforts among the administrations and members of the managing committee that share a common vision. The coast guard function does not replace the organization of the State’s maritime activities. Established with the goal of reinforcing interdepartmental cooperation and inter-administration, it allows for the merging of assets and, therefore, improving efficiencies.

The following organizations participate in coast guard functions:

These organizations are part of the new CODIR (Directorate Committee for the Coast Guard Function), which may be assembled by order of the General Secretariat for the Sea (or at the request of any of the individual organizations) under his chairmanship in order to discuss maritime domain issues.

Using the CODIR procedure, the General Secretariat for the Sea has established the Operational Centre for Coast Guard Function under his authority, hosted by the Navy Operational HQ (location and assets), dedicated to maritime situational awareness, providing global information and mapping to the political and organizations’ authorities or agencies.

Organisational Diagram of the France Secretariat

During the last CODIR, 2010-06-01, the General Secretariat for the Sea also presented the new coast guard function logo and flag, which will be borne by the participating assets.

Logo Garde-Côtes

France & NACGF

The French Navy, in its dual role (coast guard function & defence), chairs the Maritime Security Working Group for France. The current Chairwoman is LCDR Marie-Laure Goebbels from the Law Enforcement at Sea branch, French Navy staff HQ, and the current Secretary is CDR Thorsten Werning, Navy staff HQ.


LCDR M-L Goebbels
Phone :0033 1 42 92 15 75 / or 16 50 (secretary)
Fax : 0033 1 42 92 17 13

CDR Thorsten Werning
Phone : 0033 1 42 44 30 05