Directorate-General of Customs and Indirect Taxes

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]

Decentralised Services

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

A customs region typically consists of:

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


Customs Agent 1, the "sky blue" pants with a "madder" band.

Customs officials of all ranks wear French rank insignia based on that of the army. However, the ranks should not be seen as equivalent to the army rank insignia used. Air and Maritime elements have reversed colours.

Customs agents (agents de constatation) wear the rank badges of French army senior NCOs:

Controllers are more senior and wear the rank badges of French army junior officers:

Inspectors and Directors are the most senior and wear the rank badges of the French army ranks of field officers:

Armament and equipment


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.[8]


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:

1 Offshore Patrol Boat
2 Coastal Patrol Boat
1 Surveillance Patrol Boat
2 speed boats
1 Offshore Patrol Boat
4 Coastal Patrol Boat
3 Surveillance Patrol Boat
2 speed boats
8 Coastal Patrol Boat
8 Surveillance Patrol Boat
4 Coastal Patrol Boat
5 Surveillance Patrol Boat
1 Offshore Patrol Boat
1 Speed boat

Ground forces

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

Small Arms

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.


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