The EMSA website uses cookies to offer you a better browsing experience, in accordance with the EMSA privacy notice. Find out more on how we use cookies


EU cooperation on Coast Guard functions - Governance

banner coast guards

The European Union and its Member States have a strategic interest across the global maritime domain in identifying and addressing relevant challenges linked to the sea.

European citizens expect effective and cost-efficient responses to ensure the protection of the maritime domain, including borders, ports and offshore installations, as well as to secure seaborne trade, address potential threats from unlawful and illicit activities at sea, and to make optimal use of the sea’s potential for growth and jobs, while at the same time safeguarding the marine environment.

To this end, within the EU, there are more than 300 civilian and military authorities responsible for carrying out coast guard functions. These functions comprise tasks related to safety and security at sea, search and rescue, border control, fisheries control, customs activities and environmental protection and response.

Three EU agencies in cooperation

European cooperation on coast guard functions refers to the joint work of three EU agencies – the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), the European Fishery Control Agency (EFCA) and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) - to support national authorities in carrying out coast guard functions at national and EU level and, where appropriate, at international level.


The Founding Regulations of each of the three agencies were amended in 2016 with a common article identifying five areas for cooperation where projects are constantly developed with the aim of ensuring a close cross-border and cross-sector collaboration and coordination between the agencies and the national authorities in order to avoid duplication and redundancy of efforts and to build up synergies.

This provides an explicit legal basis for the three agencies to join forces and streamline activities in order to increase maritime situational awareness and provide tailored services to the national authorities carrying out coast guard functions.


How we work

In 2017 a Tripartite Working Arrangement (TWA) was signed by the three agencies defining the modalities of the cooperation, in accordance with the respective mandates and the financial rules applicable to each agency.

After four years of implementation of the TWA, it was assessed that the cooperation among the agencies and the Member States as regards implementation of joint projects and common synergies had further deepened. The interagency cooperation has become part of the daily work of EMSA, EFCA and Frontex and the cross-sectoral initiatives performed by two or three agencies have grown in importance and in scope to the point where those could benefit a wider number of authorities around the EU and beyond. Therefore, considering those positive results, the Tripartite Working Arrangement was amended on 18 March 2021 and extended for an undetermined term.


The TWA foresees the establishment of a Steering Committee to manage the interagency cooperation in the five areas defined by the co-legislators, namely information sharing, surveillance services, capacity building, risk analysis and capacity sharing.

The Steering Committee is composed of the Executive Directors of EMSA, EFCA and Frontex and is chaired by each of them on rotation. It approves the Annual Strategic Plan for the implementation of the TWA, with a view to its submission to the respective governing bodies for adoption and subsequent integration in the single programming documents of the three agencies.

The Annual Strategic Plan is the basis for the development of the Annual Implementation Plan, defining in detail the activities that each agency will implement under the coast guard cooperation framework during the respective year.

Furthermore, under the TWA, three Technical Subcommittees (TSC) have been set up to manage the cooperation at technical level:

As part of the projects for technical assistance funded by the European Commission, EMSA offers cooperation and assistance in the fields of maritime safety and security, prevention of pollution from ships and marine environmental issues to: