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Coast Guard

A Coast Guard is an organization devoted to saving the lives of shipwrecked mariners or people in danger at sea. In some countries it is part of the military. In other countries it is a civilian or even volunteer organization. Most coast guards operate ships and aircraft including helicopters and seaplanes for this purpose.

Coast guards also enforce maritime law, maintain aids to navigation such as beacons and buoys, and provide other services for the benefit of mariners. Most coast guards are run on military lines and serve as an auxiliary to the national navy. During wartime coast guards are responsible for harbor defense, port security, naval counterintelligence and coastal patrols.

National Coast Guards

In the United States, the United States Coast Guard is a Federal agency under the United States Department of Homeland Security in peacetime. In wartime it becomes part of the United States Navy.

In the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland the rescuing of people at sea is the function of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), an all-volunteer organisation founded in 1824 as the National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck, adopting the present name in 1854, which is funded entirely by membership fees, voluntary donations and legacies from members of the public. The RNLI operates 5 classes of inshore (inflatable) lifeboats of 20-40 knots, and 5 classes of all-weather lifeboats with maximum speeds of 16-25 knots around the coasts of Britain and Ireland. Air-Sea rescue helicopters are provided by the Royal Navy and the Irish Air Corps. The RNLI currently has over 200,000 members whose annual membership fees help to finance the organisation, supporting the 4,500 sea-going crew. Between 1824 and 2002, the RNLI's lifeboats are reckoned to have saved 135,500 lives.

See also: Navy, ship, United States Coast Guard

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