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Illegal substances onboard
Graemer
Posted: Friday, December 5, 2008 2:47 AM
Joined: 27/11/2008
Posts: 10


Hi All,

What's the story with illegal substances on a superyacht?  We all hear the stories of parties where more than just alcohol and food are shared...  If the boat gets busted or searched and the owners/charterers drugs are found, who is responsible?

I understand that a commercial pilot is not held responsible for passengers carrying drugs on their aircraft, is it the same in the superyacht industry?  Has anyone ever experienced this?

Cheers


Mike French
Posted: Friday, December 5, 2008 3:23 PM
Joined: 06/05/2008
Posts: 57



The captain, owner, manager etc all share responsibility for what happens on board.  This responsibility can be limited by the actions and policies stated and implemented on board the vessel.  That is to say, if a crew member uses or carries drugs aboard the vessel in contravention of the stated drugs policy and the management can prove that it has taken all steps possible to implement the policy, the crew member becomes more and more responsible.

The problem seems to be, that few vessels have any real anti illegal drug policies on board.  They rely on the stated policy that is in line with the Flag state law and claim to operate a zero tolerance policy and consider this to be enough.  In fact unless there exists the threat of being caught, people will continue to use drugs on board.  Unfortunately people do not stop drinking and driving because it could kill someone, they stop it because the penalties are significant.

Having a random testing deterrent in effect is arguably one of the best courses of defence a captain or owner can employ to limit their liability and reduce the penalties aimed against them.

Anonymous
Posted: Friday, December 5, 2008 4:35 PM
Okay, but what if it is the owner or his guests doing drugs - can't exactly do random drug testing on them?! Is the captain responsible for their drugs?
Mike French
Posted: Friday, December 5, 2008 7:47 PM
Joined: 06/05/2008
Posts: 57


The captain has a responsibility to comply with the law both of the flag state and of the national law which has jurisdiction where the yacht is located.  If laws are broken on board the policy implemented by the captain would surely be called into question.   It would be  difficult for a captain to prove ignorance of the behaviour of the guests in his or her charge owing to the unique relationship and proximity a captain and crew share with their guests.

Owners or guests are no more allowed to use drugs on board yachts than crew members.  The responsibility off  the captain remains the same irrespective of the wealth of the individual concerned.  The captain's balls just have to be a little bigger to deal with drugs when the owners or guests are using them.

Anonymous
Posted: Friday, December 5, 2008 9:50 PM
Well Mike, This is all in a "perfect world." In the real world people do indulge in drugs, to varying degrees, some are very successful people in a position to charter or own a yacht. Successful beyond your dreams. The fact is there are many serial charterers who are well known to indulge in the use of drugs. The savvy brokers know which captains (and yes owners are often well aware) are ok with it within certain parameters. Certainly doing lines on the aft deck in a crowded marina is not going to fly, smoking a doobie in the hot tub in an uncrowded anchorage after dark, not such an issue. Of course we are talking very small, personal use quantities. Common sense, sensible adults and not a bunch of careless yahoos goes without saying. If the Captain and Owner are aware of the issue and turn a blind eye so to speak, then it is up to them if they want to take the risk. Yes, it is against the law. Did you ever sip wine at your parent's dinner table before you were 21? That was illegal too. Mike you have been very anti-drug in your blog posts and I respect that. At the same time you have complained of suffering from hangovers after over-indulging in alcohol. Personally I would rather have a captain at my helm who had smoked a joint the night before than one suffering from a head splitting hangover after quaffing Mt. Gay 12 hours previous. Technically not drunk but maybe very impaired. You are very keen to impose random drug testing on crew but could you say that you have followed FAA regulations for alcohol with the operation of vessels under your command?
Anonymous
Posted: Friday, December 5, 2008 10:44 PM
Anonymous wrote:
Mike you have been very anti-drug in your blog posts and I respect that. At the same time you have complained of suffering from hangovers after over-indulging in alcohol. Personally I would rather have a captain at my helm who had smoked a joint the night before than one suffering from a head splitting hangover after quaffing Mt. Gay 12 hours previous.



You shouldn't want either at the helm... are you mad? Hangovers? Not while at work!! Either is just as bad and both should be forbidden.

Over indulging in alcohol is not illegal.... illicit drug use is.... but operationally both of these is disgraceful while operational.

How you can stand there and defend the use of illegal drugs on board yachts is beyond me....

Anonymous
Posted: Saturday, December 6, 2008 1:58 AM
It was hypothetical of course, but smoking a joint the day before (not while operating the vessel) leaves little if any lingering effect, as opposed to being very drunk the night before which, at the very least can leave the operator very hungover, and at the worst still drunk when he is operating the vessel the next morning. If I had to pick a captain I'd opt for the former. I am not defending or advocating the use of illegal drugs, but just because alcohol is legal doesn't make it safer. There are many Captains out there who may not drink underway but sure as hell hit the hard stuff as soon as the anchor drops or the boat is on the dock and are very adept at concealing it. In the real world there are circumstances when Captains will need to make a judgement call. Do you think it necessary to call the Coast Guard on your charter guests for smoking a joint while on the hook in a private anchorage? A boat that they have paid more than the cost of your house to spend a week or so on. There are many, many captains out there who may not admit it publicly but their answer would be no. I would like to know how the law reads these days if an owner or charter guest is caught with illegal substances. Anyone? What would happen if the owners kid was caught with heroin?
Anonymous
Posted: Saturday, December 6, 2008 7:23 PM

The law reads that the captain ( as the legaly responsible person on board) will be held accountable to the level of punishment appropriate within that waters normal laws, which often includes a prison term. (in Singapore it is life inprisonment, in some Arabian states it is the death penalty) Also if the vessel has just entered that countries waters, they will also be charged with smuggling drugs into the county. There will also be a legal responsibilty for the security officer as well, (often the 1st or 2nd officer) they are responsible for preventing any illegal substances arriving on board !

As the vessel is likely to be locked up, and crew under arrest also (along with guests) until the local police decide who is the owner/user of the illegal drugs, who will then along with the captain go to court, I would imagine that any informed crew would be keen to report any use either by crew or guests immediately to the Captain.

Most charter agreements/contracts have written in a section ( the client signs this contract), which clearly states that no illegal activities are to be undertaken by clients, usually drug use is specifically mentioned. The agreements have a statement that breaking of this is deemed as an immediate end of the charter and that police will be involved.

If it is an owners guest or family, the Captain "has" got a choice, discuss it with the owner, explain the law, if the owner deems this as acceptable behaviour by his guest, the captain "still" has a choice, to leave. On the spot if he wishes, he can sign the vessel over to the closest port Captain.

I know many Captains who make there no tollerance policies clear at interveiw stage, so that this type of owner will not consider employing them in the first place, thus avoiding the whole issue.

As stated in a previous post, why would anyone in thier right mind go to sea under the influence of any substance that impairs thier judgement, most yachts have anti drug policies, and no alchol to be consumed within a minimum of 24 hours before going to sea policies, and again, many countries have laws on drink when in charge of a vessel, which are similar or stricter than their car/alcohol laws.


Anonymous
Posted: Sunday, December 7, 2008 1:29 PM
I agree with what you say....

At the end of the dat Captains are charged with protecting the Owner's asset.  As a Captain that is my number one priority, and that includes all aspects of safety, financial, crew, etc, etc.

If guests on board are jeopardizing the owners' yacht, then they are gone, plain and simple.... it has never been a problem for me and my Owners, to chuck a charter off the yacht.

All charters should begin with a safety brief for guests... this is a legal requirement... it is not difficult to reiterate the zero tolerance policy in this briefing.

As far as crew are concerned, the MCA states that the vessel MUST have a drug prevention policy on board. I do not remember the exact verbage. However after speaking to the MCA reps during FLIBS, they told me that a posted sign of zero telerance is not enough. An ACTIVE prevention policy and deterrent policy is necessary and required by law.... there words not mine...

I do however (after recently seeing what I saw in St. Maarten) agree with them. It is getting way out of control down there!




Anonymous
Posted: Sunday, December 7, 2008 6:44 PM

I recognize the need to provide for yacht crew education in a drug free workplace as per Coast Guard mandate as well as to ensure liabiity to captains and owners. I offer on board seminars for substance abuse as well as providing assistance to crew and families facing a wide range of personal problems.  Tana Mouflouze at Professional Health  Network ,Inc.  marinementalhealth.com   Tana Mouflouze RN    561 707 2619          and1 877 755 0277


Mike French
Posted: Monday, December 8, 2008 3:06 PM
Joined: 06/05/2008
Posts: 57


Anonymous wrote:
Well Mike, This is all in a "perfect world." In the real world people do indulge in drugs, to varying degrees, some are very successful people in a position to charter or own a yacht. Successful beyond your dreams.

As a matter of fact my dreams are pretty impressive and I think that is a bit patronising.  I dream of never wearing the same pair of custom designed socks twice and flying supplies of English tea bags to my yacht in a jet. I also dream of having a nanny that wouldn't do the Victoria's Secret show because I paid too much to bother.

In a perfect world there would be no anti drug laws.  They exist because drugs are not in the interest of the masses.  This is how legilsation works it avoids people like you using their subjective values in discretion.


The fact is there are many serial charterers who are well known to indulge in the use of drugs. The savvy brokers know which captains (and yes owners are often well aware) are ok with it within certain parameters.

Are you suggesting  that savvy brokers are the ones who know and condone the use of drugs aboard yachts.  There may be a few owners of charter yachts who would be shocked to hear that.   When you suggest that owners are often aware; just how many owners are you talking about here.  I am not sure who you are but I suspect you are maing the mistake of generalising an anecdote annd making seem like the norm.   I bet you I could find one hundred owners who would be shocked for every one you can find that is aware of drug use aboard his or her yacht.

Certainly doing lines on the aft deck in a crowded marina is not going to fly, smoking a doobie in the hot tub in an uncrowded anchorage after dark, not such an issue. Of course we are talking very small, personal use quantities.

Here is the misnoma.  The law sees the importation of drugs as big issue.  If a yacht travels to international waters and returns to a dock the law may see it as importing illegal substances.  The penalties are massive and the owner could lose the yacht and the captain his or her career.  There is no concession in importing drugs for small amounts.  It is black and white.

Common sense, sensible adults and not a bunch of careless yahoos goes without saying.

Drugs are not sensible.

If the Captain and Owner are aware of the issue and turn a blind eye so to speak, then it is up to them if they want to take the risk. Yes, it is against the law. Did you ever sip wine at your parent's dinner table before you were 21? That was illegal too.

Not in my country is isn't.  The legal drinking age is 18.  The law regards under age drinking slightly differently to illegal drugs. 


Mike you have been very anti-drug in your blog posts and I respect that. At the same time you have complained of suffering from hangovers after over-indulging in alcohol.

When did I do that?

Personally I would rather have a captain at my helm who had smoked a joint the night before than one suffering from a head splitting hangover after quaffing Mt. Gay 12 hours previous. Technically not drunk but maybe very impaired.

If you have to deal with either it is a shame.  Alcohol is legal drugs are not.  Simople what part of this don't you get. 

You are very keen to impose random drug testing on crew but could you say that you have followed FAA regulations for alcohol with the operation of vessels under your command?

Absolutely.  I would not drink and drive a car nor would I ever proceed to sea as a captain if I was impaired.  I am not sure what the FAA regulations are but I would never be over the limit set by the UK government which is pretty stringent.  I have actually stopped a vessel going to sea because a watchkeeper was hungover and fired a first officer because he could hold his drink.  That said I have experienced very few issues as a result of alcohol abuse.  Most people can handle their drink perfectly well.

Random drug testing is a detterent.  I have done quite some research on this issue and I have actually met and talked to crew members who use drugs.  The common theme is that they feel there is little chance of getting caught so they accept the risk.  Not one off them that I spoke to accepted the risk of impairment and it's potential danger in operating a vessel. 

My position is that we can stop the use of drugs if we get together and agree that a system of random testing is part of a proactive zero tolerance policy.  This is required by the law of most flags states and is in line with the IMO.  I honestly fail to understand why some people such as you attempt to defend drug use in any form. 

Anonymous
Posted: Monday, December 8, 2008 10:51 PM
So how common is the random drug testing and how is it performed.
Potentially, a crew member could say that they were targeted by a Captain "looking for an excuse".

Are there 3rd parties who offer a non biased testing service?  How far do they go - blood/urine test like in competitive sports?  Is there any tolerance - ie crew member on shore leave for a week (effectively their own time) comes back and tests positive for drug use the next day?

I have no concerns around managing drugs on board when it is the crew, but without the support of the owner/charter broker and/or management company, removing guests who bring drugs on board could be seen as a career limiting move by some people.

Should guests be subject to random testing as well?? (purely as food for thought, I am not advocating this, but when it is your career (and potentially life) at stake, such things do need to be considered).

Thanks for the great discussion thus far too!

Anonymous
Posted: Tuesday, December 9, 2008 10:55 AM

Generaly all crew are tested, including the Captain, normally by a specialist company, also in many countries there are large numbers of medical laboratories in most towns, this allows for completely independant medical testing senarios. By testing all it avoids the issue of any individual crew member feeling singled out, unless a test proved positive there would be no issue to answer to.

Random, means just that, there is no point in saying we will test once a month on the 1st monday in the month! The drug policy on a yacht will be clearly stated in the employment contract, and signed by the crew member, so if you have signed that you agree to abide by a "NO drugs in my system at any time" deal, it means just that, (not an "I will when i want to and not on duty  deal) also how would someone prove that they took it 2 days ago or 2 weeks ago, and not last night. If as crew, an individual will not abide by the policy, do not join that yacht, as suspision of crew drug use will provoke more "random" tests on the rest of the crew as well, great for team morale, NOT.

As regarding it being "career limiting" for a Captain to enforce the clause in a charter contract of no drugs on board  by charter guests, I would suggest that serving a prison term, and having an owners prized yacht arrested, the owners and managers possibly also prosicuted as a "far larger" risk of limiting, in fact ENDING, the Captains career. 

 


Mike French
Posted: Wednesday, December 10, 2008 3:17 PM
Joined: 06/05/2008
Posts: 57


Anonymous wrote:
So how common is the random drug testing and how is it performed.
The point is random has to be random.  Once a season or even once a year could be enough.  Any crew joining the boat would also have to be tested to establish a 'clean' start.  An appointed officer should visit the boat and ask for a saliva sample from the crew under managed conditions.  The oral swab tests are expensive but allow very accurate tests and they also only show substances in the system that have been recently used.  This negates the issue of civil liberties and crew claiming they used drugs on their holidays etc.  If a test confirms the presence of anything that is not normal it is considered a 'non-negative' and a chain of custody is set up to ensure the test sample is handled correctly.  Thee results of the sample can be further analysed or augmented with another test for example a hair test.

Potentially, a crew member could say that they were targeted by a Captain "looking for an excuse".
Not if it is random.  My suggestion is that the captain should not be involved in the  random testing and should be subjected to the same test.  If however the captain has suspicion then he or she an absolute duty to instigate a test but it should be under carefully controlled conditions and this may require training in how to administer the test. The time to argue the point is after taking the test and it being negative!


Are there 3rd parties who offer a non biased testing service?  How far do they go - blood/urine test like in competitive sports?  Is there any tolerance - ie crew member on shore leave for a week (effectively their own time) comes back and tests positive for drug use the next day?
There are a couple of companies that are starting out, one of which I am actively consulting for.  They will set up a random test system and  to more or less any requirement.  The idea is definitely to deter drug use on a given yacht and not to sneak around catching and punishing crew.  The thought is that good crew who do not use drugs will not work aboard boats with an active prevention policy.  The company has also negotiated with insurance companies who will offer discounts to yacht owners if they employ the random system as part of their safety management system.

I have no concerns around managing drugs on board when it is the crew, but without the support of the owner/charter broker and/or management company, removing guests who bring drugs on board could be seen as a career limiting move by some people.
Absolutely not.  The law is clear and it is on the side of the captain who takes the right action.  There are a number of charter clients who are banned from yachts because of their antics.  It is up to the individual to refuse to be intimidated by rumours of evils brokers or owners who will take action against people who will not bend to their will.  They are mostly rumours believe me.

Should guests be subject to random testing as well?? (purely as food for thought, I am not advocating this, but when it is your career (and potentially life) at stake, such things do need to be considered).
Now that is a can of worms.  One can act only on the basisi of clear evidence.  Deterrent is the key.  Look at how effective an anti smoking policy is these days.  If a yacht is anti smoking and makes it clear there are rarely detractors.  They will smoke elsewhere or find another yacht to charter!


Thanks for the great discussion thus far too!


Anonymous
Posted: Friday, December 12, 2008 12:55 AM
I am involved in a drug testing company in various industries, including maritime, and you raise some good points

Anonymous wrote:
So how common is the random drug testing and how is it performed.
Potentially, a crew member could say that they were targeted by a Captain "looking for an excuse".


Well that is possible, but a Captain does not need much of an excuse to re-shuffle his crew if he wants! Using a drug testing company, the Captain is out of the loop (even if he booked it) and the tests are sealed and signed by the crew member, and then enter into a chain of custody until they arrive at the lab. For a Captain l"ooking for an excuse", I would suggest there are much easier ways!

Are there 3rd parties who offer a non biased testing service?  How far do they go - blood/urine test like in competitive sports?  Is there any tolerance - ie crew member on shore leave for a week (effectively their own time) comes back and tests positive for drug use the next day?

Good point.... usually we do not want to dictate to crew what they do during their extended time off.. However we are concerned if crew are using illegal drugs while operational. We do have tests that are much more short term and can detect drugs that have been used within the last 3 days to one week.

I have no concerns around managing drugs on board when it is the crew, but without the support of the owner/charter broker and/or management company, removing guests who bring drugs on board could be seen as a career limiting move by some people.

Yes, some Captains are afraid... but they should not be. I would hope that they have the backing of their owner, who does not want to loose his yacht. As another poster said "Captains are employed to take care of their owners property", I would say that an Owner that does not back a Captain up all the way for this course of action, is not worth working for!

Should guests be subject to random testing as well?? (purely as food for thought, I am not advocating this, but when it is your career (and potentially life) at stake, such things do need to be considered).

No, but the Captain and crew should be diligent and protect their owner's yacht.

Thanks for the great discussion thus far too!

Well done for raising this discussion! It is being overlooked by some of the (so-called) leaders of this industry, who are either afraid of cleaning it up, or just enjoying using drugs themselves! I bet they are happy that there is completely random testing of pilots and crews in the airline industry, every time they fly across the Atlantic!!


Anonymous
Posted: Friday, December 12, 2008 1:00 AM
Anonymous wrote:

As regarding it being "career limiting" for a Captain to enforce the clause in a charter contract of no drugs on board  by charter guests, I would suggest that serving a prison term, and having an owners prized yacht arrested, the owners and managers possibly also prosicuted as a "far larger" risk of limiting, in fact ENDING, the Captains career.

You hit the nail right on the head, my friend!

 



Marlin
Posted: Friday, May 1, 2009 2:02 AM
Joined: 04/03/2009
Posts: 12


If you hire American licensed crew they are ALL in random drug testing programs. You have 48 hrs to go to the place that is closest to where you are for testing when called. If you fail to go them USCG licensing is notified. All positives are send to the US Coast Guard and you are given one more test. If still positive your license is suspended.
Henning
Posted: Wednesday, July 1, 2009 1:03 PM
Joined: 01/06/2008
Posts: 1049


No we aren't. We have to take one drug test for license renewal. If we work on a vessel that requires the crew to be drug tested, we'll have to take a pre employment test and be subject to a random program. Unless the vessel is in a commercial enterprise, there is no such mandate.
cdhezel
Posted: Saturday, July 11, 2009 3:44 PM
Joined: 05/09/2008
Posts: 20


wasn't going to dignify this forum but after my curiosity getting the better of me I wish to make a couple of points clear - Drugs and or alchohol in the workplce impair ability, regardless of the legal or moral grounds, the damage done may be to a third party - Importing of illegal substances can result in an innocent party (owner or Captain) being severely penalised -Captains should be above all, responsible people with integrity. That means sacrifice, Excess alchohol or the occasional joint are both unacceptible as they impair judgement, putting the team at risk, I CAN RESPECT THE CHOICES OF THOSE WHOSE INDULGENCES HAVE NO THIRD PARTY INFLUENCES; REGARDLESS OF THE LEGALITIES; THAT IS FREE CHOICE; BUT IT DOSEN'T WORK IN THIS CHOSEN PROFESSION !!! END OF STORY
Anonymous
Posted: Thursday, July 8, 2010 12:24 PM

Anonymous
Posted: Thursday, July 8, 2010 1:10 PM
Police maritime in either Nice and/or Monaco. Both located by the respective ports. Ask the port Captain to point out exact locations.
 
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