Directorate-General of Customs and Indirect Taxes

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French Customs
Direction Générale des Douanes et Droits Indirects
Agency overview
Formed 1791
Jurisdiction Government of France
Headquarters 11, Rue des Deux Communes, Montreuil, Seine-Saint-Denis, France
Minister responsible

The Directorate-General of Customs and Indirect Taxes (French: Direction générale des douanes et droits indirects, DGDDI), commonly known as les douanes, is a French law enforcement agency responsible for levying indirect taxes, preventing smuggling, surveilling borders and investigating counterfeit money. The agency acts as a coast guard, border guard, sea rescue organisation and a customs service.[1] In addition, since 1995, the agency has replaced the Border Police in carrying out immigration control at smaller border checkpoints, in particular at maritime borders and regional airports.[2]

The Directorate-general is controlled by the Minister for the Budget, Public Accounts and the Civil Service (French: Ministère du Budget, des Comptes publics et de la Fonction publique) at the Ministry of the Economy, Industry and Employment. It is normally known simply as "la douane", individual officers being referred to as "douaniers". It is an armed service.[3]


Renault Mégane of the Douanes

The first French customs service was called the General Firm (French: Ferme générale) and operated under the monarchy. During the revolutionary period, a military customs service was formed, which provided a customs service but also fought in major wars such as the Franco-Prussian War and the First World War.[4] Throughout the 19th Century armed units of douaniers served as frontier guards and performed various other para-military functions such as the provision of anti-smuggling patrols. Customs personnel were divided into those employed in bureaux (port or office-based staff who performed the same functions as customs inspectors in other countries) and those employed in brigades (mobile detachments organized, equipped and disciplined along military lines). The douaniers of the latter units wore blue uniforms with distinctive red trouser stripes and were frequently former soldiers.

The military customs service fought in the early part of the Second World War but was disbanded in 1940 after the French defeat and was never reconstituted as a military service.[4] Nonetheless small units of customs men from customs posts in French Indochina fought against the Japanese as guerilla units until the end of the war.[4]

The Musée national des douanes located in Bordeaux, France, presents the history of French customs.[5]


The French customs service is responsible for both immigration and customs checks at the following airports and ports at the external border of the Schengen Area:


Maritime ports

The French customs service carries out customs checks only at the following airports, ports and stations at the external border of the Schengen Area:


Maritime ports

Railway stations


The customs headquarters is in Montreuil (Paris). The agency consists of three types of unit:[6]

  • Administration centrale
    • Sub-directorates A to F
    • Département des statistiques et des études économiques
    • Inspection des services (IS) for internal auditing
    • Bureau de l'information et de la communication (BIC) for communications
    • Cellule de contrôle de gestion
  • National Competence Services
    • Direction nationale du recrutement et de la formation professionnelle (DNRFP) based in Tourcoing
    • Direction nationale du renseignement et des enquêtes douanières (DNRED) against fraud
    • Direction nationale des statistiques et du commerce extérieur (DNSCE), a statistical service based in Toulouse
    • Centre informatique douanier (CID), an information technology service based in Osny
    • Service nationale de la douane judiciaire (SNDJ), a judicial investigative service based in Vincennes.
    • Service commun des laboratoires (SCL), providing scientific support in laboratories

Decentralised Services[edit]

France is divided into 39 customs regions, which are grouped into 12 customs "inter-regions".[7]

A customs region typically consists of:

  • Managerial, training and logistic services
  • Cutoms Offices: dealing with commerce
  • Customs Brigades: Squads dealing with surveillance
  • A regional unit
  • A wines unit

As well as the 39 customs regions there are 4 coastguard regions: Channel & North Sea, Nantes, Marseille, Antilles-Guyana).


Administrateur in uniform for land based officers.
Administrateur in uniform for sea and air officers.
Agent de constatation de 1re classe.

Category A (inspecteur des douanes ) is recruited from holders of a bachelor degree; category B is recruited from holders of a high school diploma giving access to university studies; category C from holders of a vocational high school diploma.

# Grades
[8][9] [10]
Personnel category Land based
Sea and air [11][12]
1 Administrateur genéral des douanes
Administrateur supérieur
2 Directeur principal des services douaniers
Directeur des services douaniers 1re classe
Directeur des services douaniers 2e classe
A Colonel des armes à cheval.png Colonel.png
3 Inspecteur principal 1re classe
Inspecteur principal 2e classe
A Lieutenant-colonel des armes à cheval.png Lieutenant-colonel.png
4 Inspecteur régional de 1re classe
Inspecteur régional de 2e classe
Inspecteur régional de 3e classe
A Lieutenant-colonel.png Lieutenant-colonel des armes à cheval.png
5 Inspecteur A Commandant des armes à cheval.png Commandant.png
6 Controleur principal B Capitaine des armes à cheval.png Capitaine.png
7 Contrôleur de 1re classe B Lieutenant des armes à cheval.png Lieutenant.png
8 Contrôleur de 2e classe B Sous-lieutenant des armes à cheval.png Sous-lieutenant.png
9 Agent de constatation principal de 1re classe C Adjudant.png Adjudant-chef.png
10 Agent de constatation principal de 2e classe C Adjudant-chef.png Adjudant.png
11 Agent de constatation de 1re classe C Maréchal-des-logis-chef.png Sergent-chef.png
12 Agent de constatation de 2e classe C Maréchal-des-logis.png Sergent.png

Armament and equipment[edit]


In 2010 the aircraft fleet consisted of Reims-Cessna F406 maritime patrol aircraft; and Eurocopter EC-135 and Aérospatiale AS355 helicopters. Two Reims-Cessna F406s operated out of Martinique and the rest were based in metropolitan France.

From 2012 onwards eight Beechcraft King Air 350s replaced the F406s.[13]


Swift boat Noroit (DF12), a Haize Hegoa type patrol boat of the French customs, moored in Saint-Malo

In 2010 the customs had 3 offshore patrol boats, 18 coastal patrol boats, 18 surveillance patrol boats and 5 speed boats. The boats are assigned as follows:

  • North sea/Channel:
1 Offshore Patrol Boat
2 Coastal Patrol Boat
1 Surveillance Patrol Boat
2 speed boats
  • Atlantic
1 Offshore Patrol Boat
4 Coastal Patrol Boat
3 Surveillance Patrol Boat
2 speed boats
  • Mediterranean
8 Coastal Patrol Boat
8 Surveillance Patrol Boat
  • Antilles/South America
4 Coastal Patrol Boat
5 Surveillance Patrol Boat
  • Polynesia
1 Offshore Patrol Boat
1 Speed boat

Ground forces[edit]

As of 2008 the Customs service had 3255 vehicles (including 355 motorbikes).

Small Arms[edit]

Customs Agents are now armed with the 9mm SIG Sauer SP 2022 pistols as the standard issued sidearm, a French custom-tailored variant of the SIG Sauer Pro. The pistol was ordered to replace the PAMAS-G1 and several other pistols in service.