Test the Water

lion SD 400,lion SD 500, medixMany of us quite rightly consider the issue of alcohol and drug testing in relation to cars, driving and our roads, but how often do we really consider the need for safety on the high seas?  In many areas of Australia, maritime safety and the use of maritime transport for seamen, navy or for the general public is a fact of life. And maintaining a drug and alcohol free workforce and workplace in this area needs to be of priority.

In Sydney alone in 2009-2010 172,627 ferry services were scheduled by the Department of Transport. These services carried more than 14 million passengers comprising a mix of daily commuters (to and from work) and leisure travelers. The ferry services travelled across 40 destinations on the harbor, 20 hours a day, 7 days per week.[1] These ferries cross-cross the harbour with Circular Quay operating as the main hub of services, extending out and radiating to Manly, and far up the Parramatta River.  In other states and capital cities, shipping and maritime transport are used as necessary components of industry and urban infrastructure. In short, we rely on safe seas.

According to the Australian Maritime Safety Association, over half of maritime personnel in their 2011Australian Seafarers Study – A Survey of Health, Stress and Fatigue of Australian Seafarers, reported drinking alcohol at sea. The incidence of drinking was higher amongst engineers and crew compared with masters/mates and pilots.  Alarmingly approximately 32% of all maritime personnel exceeded the safe limits of alcohol consumption recommended by the National Heart Foundation in 1989.[2] While pilots and captains did not often fall into the latter, group, one can however draw conclusions about the potential for compromise to ship safety, OHS and an increase in risk, given the prevalence of drinking at sea amongst the engineer and crew groups.

The report also indicated there was some drug use amongst seafaring work populations and that over the past years, with crew populations scoring highest compared to other groups such as ships pilots, masters, mates and engineers.[3]

Fortunately AMSA has issued reminder statements to all seafarers for their responsibilities in relation to the consumption of alcohol and drugs and the potential performance impacts. “Seafarers while on board a ship should remain at all times capable of performing any duty which may be properly required of them….Seafarers found to be under the influence of alcohol and other drugs (whether medicinal or otherwise) that impairs them to such an extent that their capacity to carry out their duties as master or seaman may be guilty of an offence under the Navigation Act 1912.)[4]

Current blood alcohol limits in the Navigation Act are:

  • Master or seaman on duty – .04
  • Master or seaman on board but not on duty -.08

The monitor of these levels is a legislated requirement in Australia. And the use of advanced screening technologies and high quality products is paramount if sea safety is to be assured and frequently assessed. CMM Technology offers an excellent selection of testing products from urinalysis options through to saliva testing, from portable and hand-held breathalysers through to wall-mounted. Call CMM Technology on 618 9204 2500


[1] Sydney Ferries Annual Report 2009-2010 Pp12  http://www.sydneyferries.info/

[2] Parker, Hubinger, Green et al. A Survey of Health, Stress and Fatigue of Australian Seafarers. http://www.amsa.gov.au/shipping_safety/codes_manuals_and_reports/ohs_incident_reports/australian_seafarers_survey.asp

[3] Ibid. http://www.amsa.gov.au/shipping_safety/codes_manuals_and_reports/ohs_incident_reports/australian_seafarers_survey.asp

[4] Navigation Act 1912.

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