June 2015

AVOID DRUGS AND ALCOHOL IF SAILING!

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The Coast Guard is looking for seamen that fail drug or alcohol tests. At the very least, the sailor is likely to lose his sailing privileges for 90 days, often much longer. The Coast Guard is rather inflexible when it comes to trying to negotiate a lesser penalty than what they chose to charge. They have to justify their budget and workload, so they are always looking for cases to prosecute. Keep in mind that even a first offense that ends up with a 90 day suspension, in reality is much greater than a 90 day economic loss. By the time the sailor applies and receives his or her suspended documents back it can take up to 4 and sometimes even 5 months before he or she is back in line to catch a ship. Since 9/11 and the Exxon Valdez, alcohol and drug violations are no laughing matter!

QUESTION FROM THE BRIDGE

I injured my back on a vessel and rather than go ashore for treatment at the next port I chose to drink some alcohol to ease the pain. I was randomly tested for alcohol the following day and now the Coast Guard wants my documents. Do I have a defense?
Marvin. Oakland, CA

Answer:
Marvin,
Probably not as far as the Coast Guard is concerned. It would be particularly difficult to defend your actions if no injury had been reported before the test. Selfmedicating with drugs or alcohol is foolish and puts your career at stake. When injured always report it and seek the necessary care. Even taking some narcotic medications you carry for just such occasions as an unexpected injury or illness can get you in trouble.

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