December 2012 #2



Many medications may preclude the mariner from shipboard service. It is not an easy field to navigate as there are very few hard and fast lists defining what will impact duty status. The National Maritime Center has attempted to define the permissible parameters.

Briefly stated: "No mariner should be suffering from any medical condition that is likely to be aggravated by maritime service or to render the mariner unfit for such service or to endanger the health of any other persons on board. It is recommended that any medication that could result in these effects be considered in the same way as a medical condition.

Mariners should not take any medication that has side effects that will impair judgment, balance or any other requirements for safe and effective execution of routine and emergency duties on board."

This can be very confusing and difficult to interpret, even for doctors, but offers some general guidelines.

Next month, we will discuss some specific medication categories that can prevent you from sailing.


I have been prescribed a narcotic medication for a back problem that I have related to an old injury. Is it okay to return to sea service while taking this medication?
Lewis B., Houston

Lewis, this depends upon a number of matters, including whether it is a narcotic that could affect your reactions or attention aboard ship while on watch. Generally, it would be difficult to pass your pre-sign on physical if you disclose the use of such medications. It is important to be candid with any doctor performing a pre-sign on physical examination and let him know the medication you have been prescribed. There can be exceptions to the use of certain narcotics.

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