Maritime Industry Drug Testing

Maritime Industry Drug Testing

Last updated on October 6th, 2020 at 01:32 pm

… DRUG AND ALCOHOL TESTING IN THE MARITIME INDUSTRY -What do you need to know to perform drug and alcohol testing in the maritime industry?

By Robert C. Schoening, Former Drug and Alcohol Program Manager for the US Coast Guard (December 2001-March 2013)

Drug & Alcohol Testing Under 49 CFR Part 40 and US Coast Guard (USCG) Regulations

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What do you need to know to perform drug and alcohol testing in the maritime industry?

This will be the first of several articles explaining how to perform maritime drug and alcohol testing that will conform to the Federal applicable regulations.

What are the Federal regulations that are applicable to the US flagged vessels in the maritime industry?

The regulations are as follows and apply to all US flagged commercial vessels world-wide.  It is estimated that at any given point in time, there are over 125 US flagged commercial service vessels in a variety of locations world-wide engaged in carrying cargo or doing business with the petroleum industry.  Vessels that are owned and operated by the US Navy or the Military Sealift Command (MSC) are not in commercial service.  One regulation (46 CFR Part 4) also applies to foreign flagged commercial vessels when they are in US or US Territorial waters.

The applicable regulations* with effective dates are:

Regulatory Identifier

Regulatory Title

Original Published Date

49 CFR part 40

Procedures For Transportation Workplace Drug And Alcohol Testing Programs

December 1, 1989

46 CFR part 16

Chemical Testing

November 21, 1988

46 CFR part 4

Marine Casualties and Investigations

September 17, 1974

46 CFR part 5

Marine Investigations Regulations – Personnel Actions

August 9, 1985

33 CFR part 95

Operating a Vessel While Under the Influence of Alcohol or a Dangerous Drug

December 14, 1987

* There are other regulations that a service agent should be aware of if providing service to marine employers.  Briefly, they are 46 CFR Parts, 10, 12 and 15. These regulations cover the license/credential requirements to work in a vessel documented position and manning requirements for commercial service vessels.

There are several questions to be answered and facts that a C/TPA should be aware of if providing service to marine employers.

The first question: What is considered commercial service?  It is those vessels that charge to carry cargo and or passengers.  This can range from the large passenger vessels to tankers or freighters.  This does include US fishing vessels** who catch fish and return to shore to sell those fish or crabs as that is considered a commercial transaction.  Many of the “tall ships” are in commercial service and those captains have a sailing endorsement on their licenses.  Most of these vessels are required to have a US Licensed Captain or Master in charge of the vessel.

Vessels that carry passengers to go sport fishing on a trip lasting from a half-day to multiple days are required to meet the regulatory requirements.  There are several different type of vessels and licensees required for sport fishing vessels.  In general these sport fishing boats carry 7 or more passengers.

A large number of vessels in commercial service are what are called 6-PAX operators.  These are uninspected vessels where the vessel owner/operator has a Captains’ License allowing that person to operate a vessel and can carry up to 6 paying passengers.  There are a great number so these on the Great Lakes, the Eastern Seaboard, along the Gulf Coast, and with a large number in Alaska.  There are a myriad of other vessel types and for an equally myriad number of purposes or uses.

The other question:  What waters are considered US waters and what are the boundary lines for US waters?  It used to be 3 miles from the coast.  That was determined in another long ago age when that was the range of effective cannon fire and how far they could fire.  That 3 mile limit still applies to states with ocean coast lines and how far into ocean waters their state jurisdiction applies.  Per international agreement, the range for US government jurisdiction is 12 miles from the coast line.  There is also a well-known and defined Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) which extends 200 miles out from the coast line.

The other criteria to determine US waters subject to Federal and Coast Guard jurisdiction is all navigable waters.  This does include waters/rivers that form a boundary line between states.  All waters that are entirely within a state and do not flow into a river are not considered Federal navigable waters.  Some examples where the waters are not considered Federal or fall under Coast Guard regulations are the lakes at Disney World with the ferry boats that carry passengers. Another example is Lake George in New York State which is entirely landlocked.  There is a 1200 passenger vessel in New Hampshire that operates on state owned waters and does not fall under Coast Guard regulations.  Other examples of waters and vessels that are within USCG jurisdiction are a ferry boat that operates on the Potomac River north of Washington D.C. that operates between two states.  Lake Champlain is another example of commercial service vessels that operate between New York State and Vermont.  Lake Texoma which is the boundary between Texas and Oklahoma and is part of the Red River is another example of being a Federal navigable waterway.

To add complexity to this are vessels in commercial service that operate entirely within National Park Service lands.  Some examples of this are charter sightseeing boats that operate within the Grand Tetons or the Crater Lake.  National Park Service has jurisdiction and requires that these vessels comply with US Coast Guard regulations.

There are casino vessels that go on voyages to nowhere.  What that means is that they will leave a port, go on a voyage going more than 3 miles but staying within the 12 mile limit.  Between the 3 and 12 mile limit, they can have gambling for paying passengers as there is no Federal law against gambling. 

Let us add one other fact into this mix particularly, with the advent of states allowing the use of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes.  The use of marijuana for medical or recreation purposes is not allowable on all Federal navigable waterways.  Within the State of Washington, this was met with some dismay by the private boaters who utilize Puget Sound waters for boating.

** Commercial fishing vessels under 200 gross regulatory tons are not required to be operated by a credentialed captain.

The next article will delve into the different test types or reasons for US Coast Guard mandated testing.

Read Part 2 of this Article Series

Robert C. Schoening

Robert Schoening is well renowned for his knowledge and influence in the drug-testing arena. As the Drug and Alcohol Program Manager for the US Coast Guard (December 2001-March 2013) he developed and managed a successful drug testing program for the marine industry nationwide and internationally.  During this time he developed and implemented a new compliance audit checklist as well as the writing and publishing a new Marine Employers Guidebook for Drug Testing.  He is also the author of the federal regulation commonly known as the two-hour alcohol testing for maritime incidents. 

Robert’s drug testing career began in the Navy Medical Department, where he received the Navy Achievement Medal for his work on development of the Navy drug-testing program which was the first major workplace drug-testing program in the country. He retired in 1985 after serving 24 years. 

Upon his retirement, Robert established his own drug testing consulting company assisting other companies to establish drug-free workplaces and drug testing programs, concentrating primarily on the marine industry. His knowledge of regulations and policy helped build his company to be one of the premier providers of drug testing services for the marine industry. During this time he was instrumental in establishing many of the current federal policies that are in place. 

Robert has served on the Board of Directors of the Substance Abuse Program Administrators Association (SAPAA) as well as chairing the Governmental and Legislative Affairs committee. He was one of the first individuals to be recognized as an expert in the Drug and Alcohol testing industry and to receive designation as a Certified Substance Abuse Program Administrator (1996). 

Robert is active participant in community service.  He recently served on the Policy Board for the Alcohol Safety Action Program in Fairfax, VA (January 1989-December 2012).  Since moving to Whidbey Island in Washington, he has been named to serve on the Substance Abuse Committee and recently been named to serve on the Ferry Advisory Committee both of these committees are located in Island County, WA. 

Robert is currently a consultant for Workplace Drug Testing and Drug Abuse Prevention Programs.