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In Pictures: The Norwegian Coast Guard

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Norway’s waters are protected by the Norwegian Coast Guard. Here’s a visual guide to their roles and responsibilities.

The Norwegian Coast Guard’s main role is to assert and uphold Norwegian sovereignty over its inland waters, territorial waters and exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Crews from the Coast Guard Jarl are on their way to deliver marker dolls to the Russian search and rescue ship Nikolay Chiker during Exercise Barents 2021.
Crews from the Coast Guard Jarl on their way to the Russian search & rescue ship Nikolay Chiker during Exercise Barents 2021. Photo: Kystvakt.

The Norwegian coastline is vast, but the size of Norway’s territorial waters is difficult to comprehend. Norway’s Coast Guard operates in area of 2.3 million square kilometres, or around 920,000 square miles.

Introducing the coastguard

Norway’s Coast Guard (Kystvakten) provides services to a range of public agencies including the Coastal Administration, Customs and Excise, the Directorate of Fisheries, the Environmental Agency, the Institute of Marine Research, the Mapping Authority, the Navy and the Police.

CGV Sortland inspects a fish vessel in the North Sea.
KV Sortland inspects a fish vessel in the North Sea. Photo: Kystvakt.

This means specific duties range from providing emergency services at sea to customs and border control for the Schengen Area.

As part of the Royal Norwegian Navy (Sjøforsvaret), the Coast Guard shares land-based support functions like naval bases and academies with the Norwegian Fleet. The Coast Guard itself is divided into three main divisions.

Coast Guard vessel Senja by the coastline of Troms and Finnmark county in Northern Norway.
Coast Guard vessel Senja by the coastline of Northern Norway. Photo: Kystvakt.

Firstly, the Outer Coast Guard covers Norway’s EEZ and consists of several offshore patrol vessels. The Inner Coast Guard consists of Nornen-class patrol vessels. In total, the Coast Guard has 14 vessels. Supporting the coastguard is the Royal Norwegian Air Force’s patrol aircraft and helicopters.

Search and rescue services

The Coast Guard is not solely responsible for search and rescue (SAR) at sea. However, they are one of many agencies which can be called upon for SAR missions.

Norwegian Coast Guard supporting Northguider after the vessel crashed on Svalbard.
Norwegian Coast Guard supporting Northguider after the vessel crashed on Svalbard. Photo: Kystvakt.

These dramatic pictures show the rescue efforts when the fishing trawler Northguider ran aground on Svalbard in 2018.

Crew from the KV Svalbard supporting Northguider after the vessel crashed on Svalbard.
Crew from the KV Svalbard supporting Northguider after the vessel crashed on Svalbard. Photo: Kystvakt.

All 14 crew were saved, remarkably with no serious injuries. The wreck was salvaged more than 18 months later.

Fishing inspections & assistance

Fishing and seafood remains an incredibly important industry to Norway. So much so, that the majority of the Coast Guard’s work is related to fisheries, both inspections and assistance.

KV Bergen inspects a fishing vessel in the North Sea.
KV Bergen inspects a fishing vessel in the North Sea. Photo: Kystvakt.

Assistance duties include mechanical help, towing of broken-down vessels, firefighting, and removal of foreign objects at sea.

A small boat belonging to the Coast guard vessel KV Senja on its way out from Bodø harbour.
A small boat belonging to the coast guard vessel KV Senja on its way out from Bodø harbour. Photo: Kystvakt.

Environmental & research assistance

One of the lesser-known roles of the Coast Guard is to provide environmental support and support to research projects.

Coastguard Harstad assists with cleanups after a landslide in Alta, Norway.
Coastguard Harstad assists with cleanups after a landslide in Alta. Photo: Kystvakt.

For example, the Harstad provided help with cleaning up after the recent Alta landslide sent piles of wreckage into the sea.

Coast guard vessel
Coast guard vessel “Svalbard” in the Beaufort Sea north for Alaska, to assist taking up important research moorings. Photo: Kystvakt.

The Coast Guard also supports the work of the Institute of Marine Research and the Norwegian Mapping Authority.

The 80 year mark for battles in Narvik was marked with wreath-laying ceremony and speeches on coastguard Harstad.
The 80 year mark for battles in Narvik was marked with wreath-laying ceremony and speeches on coastguard Harstad. Photo: Kystvakt.

Norway’s Coast Guard has also participated in international collaborations. They took part in the 1990–91 Gulf War and the 2014 destruction of chemical weapons in Syria.

Working for the Norwegian coastguard

Several hundred people work for the Coast Guard in Norway.

Chief Royal Norwegian Navy, rear admiral Nils Andreas Stensønes and chief coastguard, commodore admiral Oliver Berdal, on board coastguard Harstad for the 80 year mark of the battles in Narvik
Chief Royal Norwegian Navy, rear admiral Nils Andreas Stensønes and chief coastguard, commodore admiral Oliver Berdal, on board coastguard Harstad for the 80 year mark of the battles in Narvik. Photo: Kystvakt.

Thanks to the Coast Guard’s photo archives, we can get a glimpse into what working for the organisation is like.

Crew member on the
A crew member (smoke diver) on the the Norwegian Costguard vessel KV Barentshav. Photo: Kystvakt.

Most of the staff functions are located at the Norwegian Navy’s Coast Guard station at Sortland in the Vesterålen islands of Northern Norway.

The crew of the Coast Guard Jarl packs oil spill response equipment from the Norwegian Coastal Administration during Exercise Barents 2021. Photo: Kystvakt.
From the kiosk onboard the Coast Guard wessel CG Senja, run by sailor Solheim.
From the kiosk onboard the Coast Guard wessel CG Senja, run by sailor Solheim. Photo: Kystvakt.
Privates practising with a rescue boat
Privates practising with a rescue boat. Photo: Kystvakt.
Apprentice on KV Bison.
Apprentice on KV Bison. Photo: Kystvakt.

Newest ships for Norway’s Arctic waters

Disappearing sea ice means Norway now has more Arctic waters to patrol than ever before. As reported by the Barents Observer, the hull for the first of three new ships for the Arctic zone is being towed from the Romanian shipyard.

Norway’s Vard Langsten shipyard will complete the three vessels, expected to be ready between 2022 and 2024. The 136-metre long Jan Mayen class vessels will be used for fishery inspections, search and rescue, territorial guarding and oil-spill preparedness.

About David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a professional writer on all things Scandinavia.

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