One of the most heavily regulated sectors, the maritime industry was also amongst the first to adopt widely implemented international safety standards.
Whether the legislation is local, or part of an international agreement, a charter party clause or regulations from oil companies, it is important that crew members on ships comply. The key regulations are outlined below to help you understand which regulations are applicable to you.
Previously the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization (IMCO), the IMO is a specialised agency of the United Nations. They are the global standard-setting authority for the safety, security and environmental performance of international shipping. Its main role is to create a regulatory framework for the shipping industry that is fair and effective, universally adopted and universally implemented.
The IMO measures cover all aspects of international shipping – including ship design, construction, equipment, manning, operation and disposal – to ensure that this vital sector for remains safe, environmentally sound, energy efficient and secure. Shipping is an essential component of any programme for future sustainable economic growth. The promotion of sustainable shipping and sustainable maritime development is one of the major priorities of IMO in the coming years.
Energy efficiency, new technology and innovation, maritime education and training, maritime security, maritime traffic management and the development of the maritime infrastructure: the development and implementation, through IMO, of global standards covering these and other issues will underpin IMO's commitment to provide the institutional framework necessary for a green and sustainable global maritime transportation system.
The IMO is the source of more than 20 conventions that guide the regulatory development of its member states to improve safety at sea, facilitate trade among seafaring states and protect the maritime environment. The most well-known is the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS).
Key IMO conventions include:
- International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974, as amended.
- International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 relating thereto and by the Protocol of 1997 (MARPOL).
- International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) as amended, including the 1995 and 2010 Manila Amendments.
In December 2002, new amendments to the 1974 SOLAS Convention were enacted. These amendments gave rise to the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code, which went into effect on 1 July 2004.
Introduced as a counter to terrorism, the code addresses the need for awareness and alertness, and an understanding of the risks that could leave organisations and facilities vulnerable to terrorist threats. The ISM and ISPS Codes are designed to protect all seafarers. The underlying message of both Codes is that seafarers must be in a fit state to carry out their duties. They have to ensure that measures are carried out, that equipment is fully functional, and they must remain alert to unusual circumstances.
Maritime organisations must show that they have management procedures in place to minimise the safety and business critical risks created by drugs and alcohol.
The Code expects the provision of safe practices in ship operation and a safe working environment, and it is expected that seafarers will be medically fit.
The International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978 was adopted on 7 July 1978 and entered into force on 28 April 1984. The main purpose of the Convention is to promote safety of life and property at sea, and the protection of the marine environment by establishing in common agreement, international standards of training, certification and watchkeeping for seafarers.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London adopted the STCW in 1978, and made significant amendments in 1995 and more recently in 2010. Initially it was designed to set minimum standards relating to training, but in 2010 the IMO adopted new amendments (known as the ‘Manila amendments’) regarding fitness for duty, which applies to most commercial vessels.
The Manila amendments to the STCW Convention and Code were adopted on 25 June 2010 and entered into force on 1 January 2012. The aim was to bring the Convention and Code up to date with developments since they were initially adopted and to enable them to address issues that are anticipated to emerge in the foreseeable future.
What’s relevant to drug and alcohol use, abuse and testing?
STCW part A (mandatory) states that “each administration shall establish, for the purpose of preventing alcohol abuse, a limit of not greater than 0.05% blood alcohol level (BAC) or 0.25 mg/l alcohol in the breath alcohol in the breath or a quantity of alcohol leading to such alcohol concentration for masters, officers and other seafarers while performing designated safety, security and marine environmental duties.”
In relation to the prevention drug and alcohol abuse, part B acknowledges that drug and alcohol abuse directly affects the fitness and ability of a seafarer to perform watchkeeping duties or duties that involve designated safety, prevention of pollution and security duties. The recommendation is that “Seafarers found to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol should not be permitted to perform watchkeeping duties or duties that involve designated safety, prevention of pollution and security duties, until they are no longer impaired in their ability to perform those duties.”
This includes ensuring that adequate measures are taken to prevent impairment including screening programmes to identify drug and alcohol abuse; respect the dignity, privacy, confidentiality and fundamental legal rights of the individuals concerned whilst taking into account relevant international guidelines.
They also recommend the implementation of a clearly written drug and alcohol policy, including prohibition to consume alcohol within four hours prior to serving as a member of a watch, either by inclusion in the company’s quality-management system or by means of providing adequate information and education to the seafarers. For those writing the policy and establishing the programme they are advised to take into account the guidance contained in the ILO publication Drug and Alcohol Prevention Programmes in the Maritime Industry (A Manual for Planners).
MARPOL relates to the prevention of pollution of the marine environment by ships both operationally or due to accidental causes internationally.
Originally adopted by the IMO in 1973 the protocol of 1978 was due to a number of tanker accidents between 1976 and 1977. As the convention of 1973 had not come into play the 1978 protocol took over the parent convention. In 1983 this combination came into force and was updated in 1997 and 2005.
"The Convention includes regulations aimed at preventing and minimizing pollution from ships - both accidental pollution and that from routine operations - and currently includes six technical Annexes. Special Areas with strict controls on operational discharges are included in most Annexes."
OCIMF is made up of 94 companies worldwide and their mission is to be the foremost authority on the safe and environmentally responsible operation of oil tankers and terminals, promoting continuous improvement in standards of design and operation.
They have a simple 2 page document that summarises their recommendations.
These are that shipping companies should have a clearly written policy on drug and alcohol abuse that is easily understood by seafarers as well as shore-based staff. To support this policy companies should have rules of conduct and controls in place, with the objective that no seafarer will navigate a ship or operate its onboard equipment whilst impaired by drugs or alcohol.
OCIMF recommends that seafarers be subject to testing and screening for drugs and alcohol abuse by means of a combined programme of un-announced testing and routine medical examination. The frequency of this un-announced testing should be sufficient so as to serve as an effective deterrent to such abuse. These general principles are referenced by many maritime companies.
SIRE was introduced by OCIMF in 1993 to address concerns raised about sub-standard shipping.
The SIRE Programme is a risk assessment tool designed for ship operators, terminal operators, charterers and government bodies who are concerned with ship safety. The SIRE system is a very large database of up-to-date information about tankers and barges. In the tanker industry SIRE has raised awareness on the importance of meeting tanker quality and ship safety standards. Since its introduction, the SIRE Programme has received industry-wide acceptance and participation by both OCIMF Members, Programme recipients and by ship Operators. The expansion of Barges and small vessels into SIRE was inaugurated in late 2004.
Since its introduction, more than 180,000 inspection reports have been submitted to SIRE. Currently there are over 22,500 reports on over 8000 vessels for inspections that have been conducted in the last 12 months. On average Programme Recipients access the SIRE database at a rate of more than 8000 reports per month.
This self-assessment programme provides ship operators with a way to measure and improve their own safety management systems.
Performance indicators are provided for which they can use for assessment and the results can be used to develop an improvement plan to move towards safety and environmental excellence.
Under this charter there is a section on having a drug and alcohol policy for the charter term.
This policy is about drug and alcohol abuse which must be applicable to that vessel and at the very least meeting the standards in the latest edition of OCIMF Guidelines for the Control of Drugs and Alcohol Onboard Ship. Alcohol impairment is defined as a blood alcohol content of 40mg/100ml or greater. Drug and alcohol screening is applicable to all of the vessels officers and will be both part of routine medical examinations and unannounced.
To become an effective deterrent the testing should have frequency to do so and all officers should be tested at least one a year. The policy must remain through the charter term and complied with. Anyone who returns a positive test, refuses to have a test, or is deemed unfit for duty due to impairment from drug or alcohol use will be removed from the vessel and cannot return while the charter term is still running.
Learn more about ExxonMobil Charter Party 2005 » [pdf 215KB]
USCG regulations apply to any US flagged vessel operating in US Coastal waters. Testing conducted under these regulations is limited to five dangerous drugs (marijuana, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, and phencyclidine (PCP)) and alcohol. All dangerous drug samples collected as part of these regulations are urine samples and must be analysed at Health and Human Services (HHS) certified labs in accordance with DOT procedures contained in 49 CFR 40.
Testing for alcohol in the marine industry may be conducted using breath or blood. If blood is tested, only a qualified medical person may collect it. Breath testing may be done by anyone trained to conduct such tests.
A marine employer may conduct DOT tests more often than required. However, if an employer wishes to test for additional drugs, or use a different cut-off level the employer must keep such a program separate from the DOT required testing program, including separate sample collections
The regulations require five types of testing:
- Pre-employment: A crewmember must pass a drug test before an employer may employ him/her. A prospective crewmember who submits a urine sample cannot be employed until a negative test result is confirmed.
- Periodic: Periodic tests are the responsibility of the individual mariner, not the marine employer, for transactions involving licenses, CORs, or MMDs. Drug test results must be submitted to the Coast Guard Regional Exam Centre at the time of the license, COR, or MMD transaction.
- Random: An employer must conduct random drug testing of certain crewmembers at an annual rate of not less than 50%.
- Reasonable cause: An employer shall require any crewmember who is reasonably suspected of using drugs to be tested for drugs and/or alcohol.
- Post-accident: A person (not necessarily a crewmember) who is directly involved in a serious marine incident must be tested for drugs and alcohol. Post-accident testing applies to all serious marine incidents involving commercial vessels regardless of flag of origin. More specifically, this includes crewmembers aboard foreign flag vessels who are directly involved in serious marine incidents occurring in U.S. waters.
There are specific regulations for reportable marine casualties. USCG 46 CFR 4.06-5 has requirements for alcohol testing following a serious marine incident (SMI) (effective June 20, 2006). Drug and alcohol testing must be conducted on each individual engaged or employed on board the vessel who is directly involved in the SMI. The alcohol testing of each individual must be conducted within 2 hours and the drug-test specimens must be collected within 32 hours of when the SMI occurred, unless precluded by safety concerns directly related to the incident.
As a consequence vessels have to carry appropriate breath testing devices for alcohol, and have the means to arrange for the collection of urine samples for drug tests.
Learn more »