HISTORY OF TURKISH COAST GUARD COMMAND
Throughout history, Turkish people have established long-lasting and well-structured states and committed their hearts and souls to the safety and security of their state and citizens.
Lessons from the past have taught us that the security of littoral states can only be ensured by starting the security process from the furthest point at seas, instead of operating within the mainland only.
The efforts concerning the foundation of the Coast Guard Organization date back to the second half of the 19th century. During this period, as a result of the Industrial Revolution in Europe, as well as the developments in the production and international trade, customs related issues such as combating smuggling became a more important agenda item.
During the Ottoman times, each customs organization was named considering its location and types of goods trafficked through. Of all, the ones on the coasts were called “Coastal Customs Offices” whereas the ones on the borderline were called “Border Customs Offices” and the ones within the mainland were termed “Inland Customs Offices”. Coastal Customs inspected both domestic and foreign commerce. Customs tax was a very important source of revenue for the state. However there were problems and complaints about the procedures used to collect taxes. This caused owners of goods resort to illegal ways.
In this period, protection of the coasts within the Anatolian peninsula, prevention and monitoring of smuggling which fell within the responsibility area of Rural Customs Administrations were conducted inefficiently due to the lack of contact between these Administrations and dispersed structure of the organization. In order to eliminate this organizational problem, organizational structure underwent a revision. As a result, Rural Customs Administrations were brought under the umbrella of Istanbul Goods Customs Directorate in 1859 and the name of the instruction was changed as “Deposit Office” in 1861. The first Director of the Deposit Office was Mehmet Kani Paşa.
During the Reforms (Tanzimat) Era, a noticeable surge in smuggling took place, mostly due to the increase in customs tax rates following the trade agreement signed between the Ottoman Empire and other countries in 1861. In order to increase the effectiveness of the struggle against smuggling, the establishment of a new institution was agreed upon, and the “Customs Enforcement Organization” was founded under the Deposit Office.
Afterwards, “Coastal Divisions” were established under the Gendarmerie Force in 1886, for the purpose of providing security and carrying out coast guard duties along the maritime borders.
At the early days of the Republic Era, “Laws on Banning and Tracking Smuggling” (No: 1126 and 1510) were put into force. On October 1, 1929, “Customs Tariff Law” was put into practice. With this law in effect, increase was observed in the number of smuggling cases due to the high increase in the tax amounts. Thus smuggling significantly increased especially at our southern borders.
As a result, "General Command of Customs Guard" was founded under the Law numbered 1841 with a semi- military identity for the purpose of executing customs-related duties such as searching, pursuing and preventing seaborne smuggling as well as ensuring the security of Türkiye's territorial waters, on 27 July 1931, with the Law numbered 1841. In 1932, it started to function under the body of the General Staff. The “Law Banning and Pursuing Smuggling” (No: 1917) foresaw detention of the suspected criminal accused for smuggling until the finalization of the court proceedings. According to the same law, the penalty could not be postponed and the criminal could be banished.
Following the introduction of the Law No. 3015 in 1936, the maritime organization under the General Command of Customs Guard gained a military character and it was entrusted with the task of ensuring security and safety within Turkish territorial waters.
Until 1956, the General Command of Customs Guard had continued to function under the General Staff in terms of its duties concerning the security of maritime borders and training of the staff, and under the Ministry of Customs and Monopoly in terms of enforcement of the tariffs.
With the Law No. 6815 on "the Transfer of Our Borders, Coasts and Territorial Waters' Protection and Anti-Smuggling Activities to the Ministry of Internal Affairs" adopted on July 16, 1956, the duties of prevention and pursuit of smuggling, protection and security of the borders, coasts and territorial waters were delegated to the General Command of Gendarmerie under the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the General Command of Customs Guard was abolished.
It was at this time that the Gendarmerie Regional Sea Commands were founded in Samsun, İstanbul, İzmir and Mersin as subordinate commands. In addition, the Maritime Branch was formed within the General Command of the Gendarmerie headquarters.
- On April 15, 1957, Gendarmerie Aegean Sea Regional Command was founded with a responsibility area starting from Enez, at the maritime border between Türkiye and Greece, up to Kocaçay at the maritime border between Muğla and Antalya.
- In 1968, Gendarmerie Black Sea Regional Command was founded with a responsibility area which is between Artvin-Kemalpaşa, the maritime border between Türkiye and Russia, and Beğendik, the maritime border between Türkiye and Bulgaria and the maritime area covering Marmara Sea.
- On July 15, 1971, Gendarmerie Mediterranean Sea Regional Command was established with a responsibility area which is between Hatay- Güvercinkaya, the maritime border between Türkiye and Syria, and Kocaçay, the maritime border between Antalya and Muğla.
ESTABLISHMENT OF THE TURKISH COAST GUARD COMMAND
As a consequence of the changes observed in the international security environment in 1960s, the geo-strategic location of Türkiye, the length of its coasts, and the prerequisites of being a maritime nation, it soon became clear that the Turkish Republic needed a new and more professional Coast Guard Command. Furthermore, efforts on the establishment of the Coast Guard Command gained pace as of 1967 due to the lack of necessary law enforcement forces that could impose various bans set out by laws under the services of Ministries having duties over territorial waters and seas.