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A portrait of the Icelandic Coast Guard

Headquartered in Reykjavik, the Icelandic Coast Guard (ICG) is a civilian law enforcement agency that is responsible for search and rescue (SAR), maritime safety and security surveillance, and law enforcement in the seas surrounding Iceland, Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) in Iceland, hydrographic surveying and nautical charting. The ICG operates the NATO Iceland Air Defence System and Control and Reporting Centre (CRC) Keflavík, which feeds its data into the NATO Combined Air Operations Centre Uedem in Germany.

Given its unique geographical location, Iceland and Allies have agreed that maintaining a periodic presence of NATO fighter aircraft based at Keflavik is most appropriate to help keep the Nation’s airspace safe and secure. NATO military aircraft deploy to Iceland up to four times a year to provide the country with air interception capabilities.


It is paramount for these NATO jets to rely on the ICG providing SAR, which is indispensable for air operations safety. "When an emergency occurs, the NATO units call the ICG SAR,” says Commander Asgrimur Asgrimsson at the ICG Headquarters in Reykjavik. "Should a pilot need to be rescued after a bail out from a jet the SAR operation will be initiated, coordinated and controlled by the ICG operation centre here in our capital.”

"Our three multipurpose vessels execute coast guard duties and rescue operations,” says Commander Einar H. Valsson, commanding officer and captain of the Ægir; this ship is operated by a crew of only 18 officers and sailors. "We regularly cooperate with our neighbouring countries, NATO and the EU. From 2010 to 2015 we deployed the Ægir and, subsequently, the Tyr to the Mediterranean Sea where they worked with other nations under FRONTEX. We rescued some 5,000 refugees from the sea, accommodated them on board and transferred them to safe places on shore.”
The ICG flying assets are a Bombardier Dash8Q 300 Maritime Surveillance Aircraft and two Aerospatiale Super Puma helicoptersAS-332. They are often the most effective and efficient asset to respond to emergencies across the huge landmass of Iceland and the surrounding seas.

In total the ICG employs 250 staff members who apply their skills, education and experience as vessel captains, pilots, aircraft mechanics, engineers, sailors, explosive ordnance specialists, and various experts in the ICG's headquarters. Two special departments at Reykjavik – the hydrographic section and the Explosive Ordnance Disposal section – and the CRC Keflavik complete the ICG organisation.

Photos by Cynthia Vernat, more photos at:


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