The KBV 002 Triton is one of the Swedish Coast Guard’s three multipurpose vessels—the largest ships in its fleet. The ships conduct a range of missions, including fishery and environmental protection, search and rescue, firefighting, and oil recovery. (Swedish Coast Guard)
The Swedish Coast Guard (SWCG) is a civilian agency in the Ministry of Justice tasked with both homeland and non-homeland security missions. Headquartered in Karlskrona, the SWCG’s vision statement is to be “a world-class coast guard, which inspires confidence both nationally and internationally.”
The SWCG currently is headed by Director General Therese Mattssond, who previously served as director general of the Swedish Customs Administration. She is responsible for all SWCG operations.
According to its official website, the missions of the SWCG include:
• Marine safety
• Search and rescue
• Living marine resources
• Border control at sea
• Migrant interdiction
• Managing oil spills
To organize, train, and equip for this portfolio of missions, the 750 personnel of the SWCG are organized into five departments—Engineering and Logistic Support, IT, HR and Finance, Methods Development, and Operations. The SWCG also is aided by the Coast Guard’s Advisory Council and the National Advisory Board on Maritime Surveillance.
The SWCG operates a fleet of three Dash 8 Q-300 maritime surveillance aircraft, the KBV 501, 502, and 508, which operate out of the Stockholm Skavsta Airport. Each aircraft has a crew of two pilots and two system operators. This air arm is augmented by a small fleet of three combination vessels and a myriad of ships and boats, including monitoring ships, environmental protections ships, hovercraft, speedboats, rigid-hull inflatable boats, working boats, beach cleaners, water scooters, and jet skis, per the SWCG’s website.
In 2017, the SWCG conducted 27 oil recovery operations, 220 fishery inspections, 2,588 investigations of drunkenness at sea, and more than 20,000 drunk-driving tests conducted in ports. In addition, the SWCG took part in the European Union’s naval operations in the Mediterranean Sea, saving the lives of 2,857 migrants attempting to flee North Africa.
Like the U.S. Coast Guard, the SWCG has changed cabinet departments/ministries in recent history. While the service traces its roots to 1638, it was not until 1988 that it was made a civilian agency under the Ministry of Defence. In 2015, it was transferred to the Ministry of Justice.
Today, the SWCG is a model for interagency and international cooperation. Because “the sea is everyone’s concern,” the agency works closely with the Swedish Transport Agency, Police Authority, Radiation Safety Authority, Civil Contingencies Agency, and Customs Administration. It also is an active participant in forums with Baltic, North Sea, and Nordic countries such as the Helsinki Commission, the Bonn Agreement, and the Copenhagen Agreement, respectively.
In a recent interview with Proceedings, Dan Thorell, director of international affairs for the SWCG, noted the Swedish and U.S. Coast Guards “have a close and fruitful cooperation in several areas. Collaboration takes place at both managerial and operational levels within a number of collaboration forums such as the North Atlantic Coast Guard Forum, the Arctic Coast Guard Forum, and the Arctic Council’s Emergency Prevention, Preparedness, and Response working group.” This sentiment is echoed by Kelli Seybolt, U.S. Coast Guard director of international affairs and foreign policy: “The U.S. Coast Guard considers the Swedish Coast Guard a good and cooperative partner in the Arctic region.”
The relationship between the U.S. and Swedish Coast Guards is a healthy one and serves as a model for coast guard–to–coast guard cooperation around the globe. That relationship could be significantly enhanced given the increased importance of the Arctic region and Russia’s belligerent behavior toward its neighbors in the region.
Mr. Dolbow is editor of The Coast Guardsman’s Manual, 11th edition, and The U.S. Naval Institute on the United States Coast Guard, both published by the Naval Institute Press, and a senior acquisitions editor for professional development content at the U.S. Naval Institute.