The coast guard keeps an eye on the sea

Coast guard

FAQ & Links

  • Do pirates still exist?

    Pirates do still exist, but we are talking about modern pirates here. These days they are making use of speedboats, machine guns and even satellite espionage to rob big cargo carriers. These cargo carriers are a popular target, because usually there is only a small crew aboard. The pirates do not flinch from using force or hijacking the crew. Next to the cargo, they are also interested in the crew's personal belongings. Modern pirates are especially active in South-East Asia ( Philippines and Indonesia ), in some parts of South America and off the coast of Somalia.

  • Found an explosive?

    You'd much rather not encounter an explosive in your nets or on board but when it does happen, this chart of explosives may come in handy.

    It is not always easy to see whether you are dealing with an explosive or not. In time it may have changed shape, it may be covered with mud or algae or it can be that you have found only a part of the explosive.
    When in doubt, it is best to assume it is indeed an explosive. Alert the MRCCC (Maritime Rescue and Coordination Centre) at once.  They will ensure the necessary assistance is provided.
    A good description always helps.
    Take pictures of the explosive and send them to Should that not be possible, describe the explosive as accurate as you can to the MRCC's operator. Use the explosives chart for this. It features the explosives most commonly found in the North Sea and gives you an idea of their shape and size.
    You'll also find recommendations on what (not) to do until the mine-hunting unit arrives.
    More information can be found in Notices to Mariners n°1.

  • How are the sea rescue services organized?

    In case of an incident at sea, the Maritime Rescue and Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Ostend comes into action. They are responsible for Search and Rescue (SAR) operations.  Het MRCC informs the rescue services to deploy their rescue boats or planes.  Along the coast there are three rescue stations: Ostend with the rescue boats of Fleet, in Nieuwpoort there is Ship Support and in Blankenberge there is the Voluntary Blankenberge Sea Rescue Service (VBZR). Rescue helicopters depart out of the air base in Koksijde. Which rescue service is deployed, depends on the nature and location of the incident . If necessary all these services work together and they all work 24/7.

  • How can I prevent that my child gets lost on the beach?

     - do not let your child get out of your sight
    - stay in an area where life guards are present
    - if there are orientation posts ("verwaalpalen") on the beach, show your child the figure of the orientation post which is closest
    - the life guards can give you a bracelet for your child
    - write your mobile phone number on the bracelet
    - tell your child to go the life guards when he or she does not find you anymore

  • How do I know if it is safe to go swimming?


    Check the colour of the flag on the life guards' post.
    A green flag means that you can go swimming in all safety. When you see a yellow flag, you are allowed to go swimming, but you should bear in mind that it can be dangerous.  Therefore it is forbidden to take rubber boats, rubber rings or other inflatable or floating objects with you in the water. A red flag signifies that it is strictly forbidden to swim.
    Furthermore, you should follow the life guards'instructions at all times.

    Surfers have their own green (surfing is allowed) and red (surfing is forbidden) flag, easy to recognize by the white logo in the shape of a surfboard.

    Keep in mind that it is forbidden to swim in unguarded areas! These areas are indicated by a prohibition sign. Going swimming nearby breakwaters and moles can be very dangerous because of the strong currents and whirlpools.

    Find the different flags and signs here.

  • Is it possible that a tsunami unfolds in the North Sea?


    Tsunami is a word of Japanese origin: ‘tsu' means ‘harbour' and ‘nami' means ‘high wave'. Tsunamis can have different causes: a seaquake (= underwater earthquake), a meteoroid or asteroid impact, a volcanic eruption below water or a big landslide. All of the above result in a big mass falling into the sea. Because of this shift, an enormous amount of water is displaced and lifted. In open sea, you can hardly notice a tsunami, for instead of a high wave, a very long wave is formed (wave length: 100 up to 400 kilometres). This wave travels at a far higher speed than normal.

    However, if this wave approaches the coast, it hits shallow water. This causes the wave to slow down. The water in the front falls to the back, upon the coming water, creating an ever increasing huge wave.

    It is unlikely that a tsunami will unfold along the North Sea coastline. The North Sea is a shallow sea, and thus the waves cannot travel at a very high speed.

    Still, the coast guard partners have taken the necessary precautions and have developed warning systems.

  • What can I do when I have been stung by a jellyfish?

    On the tentacles of a jellyfish venomonous cells are located. When being touched, jellyfish inject these cells containing venom into the victim.  Depending on the type of jellyfish and the victim's sensitivity, the pain can be less or more severe. Usually being stung by jellyfish on our coast is not dangerous or mortal.

    When you have been stung, carefully remove any parts of tentacles which may have been left on the skin. Do this by rinsing the wound with salt water (not fresh water). Avoid rubbing the wound! Rinsing with salt water or applying a cold compress may help to relieve the pain. In case of severe discomfort, painkillers may prove necessary.
    Take care: even beached and dying jellyfish can still sting when touched!

    Read more on jellyfish

    Thanks to Francis Kerckhof, RBIN/OD Nature


  • What can I do when I see a swimmer or surfer in distress?

    Call the emergency number 112 or contact the MRCC (Maritime Rescue– and Coordination Centre) in Ostend:

    •  Phone: 0032(0)59/70 11 00 of 0032(0)59/70 10 00
    • Fax: 0032(0)59/70 36 05
    •  VHF Channel 16 – Channel 67

  • What do I do when my vessel has been stolen?

    Go to your local police station or the police station where the vessel was stolen to report the theft as soon as possible. Bring all the documents that may prove useful: invoices, proof of insurance, proof of property and copies of shipping documents. Also mention anything that may provide a lead: information on equipment, means of communication on board, identity of the passengers, intended route, ports of call and final destination.

  • What should I do when my child has got lost on the beach?


    - go to the life guards
    - when you cannot find a life guard, dial the emergency number 112 or contact the Maritime Rescue and Coordination Centre (MRCC) at 0032(0)59/70 10 00
    - mention clearly to the life guard/emergency services where you have last seen your child, their name, age, colour of swimming suit and any other information which may be helpful

  • When and where are shooting exercises organized on the North Sea?

    Out of the military base 'Lombardsijde - Nieuwpoort' shooting exercises are organized on a regular basis. For safety reasons, part of the sea is closed off for all shipping during the exercises. In the Notices to Mariners nr 1 you can see which sectors are reserved for the shooting exercises. You can also find them on the nautical charts.

    The timing for the shooting exercises can be found in the list of Notices to Mariners . More information on the website of the ministry of Defence.

    Shooting exercises are normally never organized on Saturdays, Sundays, legal holidays or during school holidays.