How seafarers REALLY implement Drug and Alcohol Policy onboard

Every company impose a strict implementation of Drug and Alcohol Policy. The society has a reason to impose such a policy wherein a lot of incidents that involves violation or abuse of drug and alcohol. But on the ship it is a different story.

Nearly every seafarers know that their is always a way to violate this policy and get away with it. That is, on the minor side of violation.

In every port that they arrive at, you can see a lot of clubs, restaurants, and other types of recreational establishment that provides a way of drinking alcohol, drugs, and women. When a seaman is onboard the ship, he is bound to the policy of the company, but when he is outside the ship for recreation, do you think he still thinks of such policy and rules?

Although every seafarer understand their company’s policy about drug and alcohol, it is still a matter of knowing who is to blame in case something went wrong, if it is related to the violation of drug and alcohol policy. There is always someone to be blamed or sent home if something bad happens.

Let us not look at the “Drug and Alcohol Policy” of the company as something evil. In fact, due to this policy certain incidents and accidents are prevented, so it is all for a good cause.

But try telling that to an old timer (seaman), who had a long voyage at sea and wants to go ashore. Assuming he wants to have a chance to relax (perhaps a couple of beer) during his shore-leave.

If you want to work after you went ashore, make sure that 4 hours before your work you have not taken any alcohol. But even if it is always mentioned during safety meetings on-board, very few seafarers do this.

Yes, maybe some person abide to it, but majority don’t. In fact, seafarers drink as much as they want and return to work drunk. If you are lucky the Captain will let you sleep and give you a chance to explain when you are sober. If you are not lucky enough, he will have used his authority to impose the legal and moral aspect of the agreement you have signed, regarding to the Drug and Alcohol Policy of the company.

To be a responsible seafarer, who think before they drink is what we need on-board. Remember that your judgment at work has an effect when you are drank or drugged.

Imagine yourself assisting a senior officer who is drunk. He may say that he knows what he is doing, but do really trust a drunk guy’s word, even if you know that your life and safety depends on it?

A lot of drug and alcohol related incidents have happened in the past that is why the implementation is much stricter today.

Let’s look at an actual incident on-board. The captain and chief engineer of a supply vessel went out for a drink. They returned to the vessel after a night fun and try to have a rest. Considering that they are both drunk and not performing watch duty at port, for them, it is ok to get drunk.

After they arrived on-board and went to their cabins, for some reason the chief engineer went out of his cabin, roam around the vessel and use the stairs. To make the story short, he fell from the stairs and hurt himself.

He was rushed to the doctor and was given proper treatment (that includes stitches on his head). The doctor noticed something peculiar of the chief engineer. He got a blood sample and found high level of alcohol in his blood. The doctor writes in his report his findings and the possible cause of the accident.

The doctor reported it directly to the head office. The following day, the captain received an email for the direct violation of the company’s policy. Both the captain and chief engineer are sent home that same week.

Points to consider: If the management level officers themselves are violating the policy, how much more will you expect the ratings.

Another case: The incident happens at the Port of Curacao, on-board a Tanker vessel. The company conducted an unannounced random drug and alcohol test to the officers and crew of the vessel.

The Oiler was found positive with marijuana. He was informed about the result of the test and was asked if He was taking any medication. He just told them that he is taking multivitamins.

On the next port, he was repatriated to his country. He filed a case about the incident but eventually the courts favored the company. For the reason that every seafarer are aware of the existing Drug and Alcohol Policy and the tests are with the consent of the person involved.

Lessons Learned

Every crew on-board the ship knows that there is an existing Drug and Alcohol Policy on-board. We all see the relevant placards reminding the crew and we all sign the agreement for this policy. Any violation to this policy, gives the company the right to implement its repercussion as we have agreed to it.

The question is, are you going to strictly implement it, or you are waiting for that time when you’ll get caught violating it?

Stay sharp and follow this concepts

As the saying goes, “Lead by example”, and the best example is what the leader actually do. It all comes down to being a responsible leader. Lead your men correctly and show them that you adhere to the company’s drug and alcohol policy, so that they too will be obliged to do so.

Stand firm with your words.

Don’t show weakness by changing your mind so easily. There are people pleaser’s who just do what other people are doing so that others may think that they are part of the group.

Think of your men as your brother, or your reliable neighbor.

Try to keep them from any incident that they may not be aware of. If you think that they’ll make a mistake in the end, remind them. It’s for their own good. You’re doing the right thing.

Practice what you preach.

In every safety meeting I have heard a lot of good and sensible ideas regarding how to implement the Drug and Alcohol Policy of the company. But when you are outside of the ship, nobody even cares it exist.

Let me ask you a question. Do you want to finish your contract and go home safely?

Then you have to make a choice, you have to follow your company’s Drug and Alcohol Policy. If you want to add more into this, comment below and share it with us. Or, subscribe to our newsletter for more updates.

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