Why Carry Out Employee Testing in the Maritime Industry

Drug abuse or alcohol misuse at sea is a danger to the crew, vessel and fellow seafarers. With approximately 80% of maritime accidents caused by human error, consumption of drugs and alcohol increases the likelihood of incidents occurring due to the effect they have on a person’s cognitive ability. In addition, they can also affect a person’s chance of survival should any issues occur at sea.

Regular screening of drugs and alcohol is recommended for employees within the maritime industry. This is to prevent drugs and alcohol from impairing the ability of the crew and to identify, minimise and eliminate safety hazards.

Effects of Drugs and Alcohol at Sea

    The effects of drugs and alcohol at sea are emphasized with the changing environment. This is a combination of constantly changing weather conditions alongside the motion, vibration, and engine noise of the boat:

    • Cognitive ability is affected making information more difficult to process, and the ability to assess situations and make good decisions deteriorates
    • Balance is affected causing lack of co-ordination and decreased reaction time. This is emphasized with the movement of the boat
    • Reduced peripheral vision, decreased depth perception, reduced night vision and poor focus affects a person’s driving ability as well as their performance as a watch-keeper
    • Alcohol consumption can create inner ear disturbances, making it difficult for someone who falls into water to be able to distinguish up from down
    • Increased risk of hypothermia –moderate alcohol consumption and some drugs (barbiturates, morphine, opium etc.) lead to reduced sugar levels made worse by exercising or fasting. This can impair the body’s response to the cold meaning that an individual loses body heat faster than usual. This leads to an increased risk of hypothermia with a further increased risk to those exposed to the cold

    Employees in the maritime industry are also believed to be more susceptible to substance abuse. The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) outlines the following as reasons for this:

    • The vessel acts as both work and home for an extended period of time
    • The working hours are long and irregular
    • There is limited social interaction other than that with the vessels crew
    • Support and health facilities are limited
    • Working conditions can often be difficult
    • Significant variations in the rules and regulations surrounding the use of drugs and alcohol in each country

To minimise the consumption of drugs and alcohol at sea there are many policies in place to ensure effective regulation of the maritime industry.

  • Did You Know?

      • A mariner is more likely to become impaired from drug and alcohol consumption than a driver
      • The consumption of alcohol is involved in approximately a third of all recreational boating fatalities
      • The Coast Guard has the authority to issue a ‘Boating under the Influence’ penalty which can include a large fine, ban and/or prison sentence
      • A mariner with a blood alcohol concentration above 0.10% is estimated to be 10 times more likely to die in a boating accident than someone with zero blood alcohol concentration

Rules and Regulations

Global regulations have been put in place by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), a UN agency specialised in regulating the international shipping industry. Alongside this, national legislation forms the rules which should be followed by mariners.

    The International Maritime Organisation advises that national legislation includes:

    • A maximum of 0.08% blood alcohol level during watch-keeping duty as a minimum safety standard on ships
    • Prohibiting the consumption of alcohol within 4 hours prior to serving as a member of a watch

They also advise that adequate measures be taken to prevent drugs and alcohol from impairing the ability of watch-keeping personnel and that this should include drug and alcohol screening solutions where necessary.

In addition the Standards of Training, Certification and Watch-keeping for Seafarers (STCW), who set international qualification standards, outline that it is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and detail a limit no greater than 0.05% blood alcohol level or 0.25 mg/l breath alcohol level for mariners.

Who Should Be Tested?

    Workplace drug and alcohol testing should be conducted on all employees within the maritime industry. Employees on board all vessel types should be tested including stakeholders for:

    • Chemical tankers
    • Oil tankers
    • Bulk carriers
    • Ferries
    • Cruise liners
    • Super yachts
    • Charterers
    • Manning agents

We Recommend Regular Testing

At Randox Testing Services we recommend regular testing; the International Maritime Organisation advises that drug and alcohol testing be carried out to eliminate risk of drug or alcohol related incidents. Furthermore, guidelines provided by the Oil Companies International Marine Forum outline that seafarers should be tested through a mixture of random and regular testing to identify, minimise and eliminate safety hazards in the maritime industry.

At Randox Testing Services we ensure solutions to meet your needs with provision of reliable testing and a range of services to complement your workplace testing policy. In addition we offer a variety of employee testing to suit the needs of businesses across all industries.

  • Contact us to find out more about our services

    We offer a fully confidential and no obligation initial consultation.