The coast guard centre is made up of two centres complementing each other: the Maritime Rescue and Coordination Centre (MRCC) and the Maritime Security Centre Belgium (MIK). The MRCC can be compared to the fire and ambulance brigades on the mainland, while the MIK can be seen as the police and custom services at sea. The MIK takes charge of security at sea and ensures that legislation at sea is not violated. The MRCC is in charge of safety at sea and coordinates rescue operations.
The coast guard centre, assisted by the vessels, the helicopters and the surveillance aircraft of the coast guard partners, operates as the eyes and the ears guarding the North Sea. Radar images, nautical charts and meteorological data enable the coast guard centre’s operators to watch over the North Sea and to prevent accidents.
The MIK has operators of the Navy, the Maritime and River police and Customs working closely together to ensure that legislation is respected at sea as well. The MIK’s operators track down illegal activities. These can range from terrorist attacks over human and drug trafficking to forbidden fishery practices and illegal oil spillages. Surveillance by authorised coast guard partners is not a luxury but an absolute necessity.
Organizing emergency response and relief in moments of crisis is the MRCC’s responsibility. When a disaster at sea enfolds, the governor of West-Flanders province activates the North Sea Contingency Plan. Together with a specialist committee, the governor coordinates the emergency relief out of the MRCC’s crisis room. Both the MRCC and the MIK have a direct radio connection to the government’s emergency response centre and all units on and above the North Sea offering assistance.
The Coast Guard and the Coast Guard centre do not posess any means, but they can make use of the means of the different coastguard partners, such as Vloot (Fleet), VBZR and Ship Support, the Seakings of the ministry of Defence, the surveillance aircraft of MUMM etc. Togheter with these means, the Coast Guard centre makes up the operational part of the Coast Guard.