The Drug & Alcohol Policy for ships is a mandatory regulation and an important code of conduct, which is to be strictly followed by those working on ships. While some seafarers are often in doubt regarding the consumption of alcohol allowed on ships, for others it is just one of the several regulations of shipping.
According to shipping regulations, it’s compulsory for seafarers to follow the “Drug & Alcohol Policy” of the shipping companies they work for. Consumption and possession of drugs and other abused substances is strictly prohibited on all ships, however, permission to consume alcohol on ships depends on the shipping companies.
Either ways there are strict restrictions on the amount and time of alcohol consumed on ships. It is the duty of the captain to ensure that all crew members are aware of the regulations mentioned in the “Drug and Alcohol Policy” followed on the ship.
Mentioned below is a general overview of Drug & Alcohol policy used on ships:
- Officers, crew members, family members, or shore staff visiting the ship is not allowed to bring alcohol or drugs on board ships
- If required by the company policy, seafarers can be screened for alcohol and drug abuse during medical checkups prior to joining a ship
- Consumption of any kind of alcoholic beverages (including beer) during working hours, over time, or within 4 hours prior starting work or watch is strictly prohibited
- In case officers and crew members are returning from shore leave, they must observe a period of total abstinence from all kind of alcoholic beverages prior to their scheduled watch keeping duties
- Some company policies might allow “controlled” consumption of alcohol on ships. However, they would set and enforce limits on consumption of alcohol 4 hours prior to working hours
- Shipping companies make their drug and alcohol policy based on the guides provided by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF). International Maritime Organization (IMO) recommends a maximum of 0.08% blood alcohol level (BAC) during watch keeping duties as minimum safety standard on ships. However, the amount of BAC allowed differs from company to company, where some allow maximum of 0.04% (During off hours) whereas others prefer 0% BAC. Lately, most of the companies have totally banned possession and consumption of alcohol on board their ships
- Random alcohol and drugs testing of officers can also be done on board ships to ensure that there is no breach in the policy
- Nowadays, most of the shipping companies provide Alcohol test meters (Intoximeter) on board so that ship’s captain or senior officers can check any crew member suspected of having high level of alcohol in his system and is incapable of carrying out his duties
- Seafarers who fail to follow the “Drug and Alcohol Policy” of the company is bound to face disciplinary actions and even dismissal from employment
- In case alcohol is allowed on ships, purchase of the same is allowed only from the master’s bond and bringing alcohol on board ships is strictly prohibited
It is the duty of the captain and senior officers of the ship to ensure that the rules and regulations of drug and alcohol policy is enforced and followed on ships.
As mentioned above, the drug and alcohol policy on ships would differ with each company, depending on the type of ship and nature of cargo. Safety of ships and cargoes, along with the well-being of the seafarers is the main motive of this policy and it is therefore necessary that all seamen take this regulation with utmost seriousness.