Correspondence received – Drug abuse follow up

Correspondence received – Drug abuse follow up

Further to your article, “Drug abuse on fishing vessels” in MFB58 I was interested in the comment “However, CHIRP is not aware of any similar type of simple device on

board vessels for detecting the presence of drugs. Such a procedure usually requires third party involvement, similar to the monitoring of sports personnel”. It is possible to test for 13 separate recreational drugs by using the saliva, urine or hair follicle testing method depending on what is required. Each one has a different ‘Detection Timeline’ with saliva detecting 2 to 3 days back, urine up to 30 days and hair follicle dependent on the length of the hair.

Many flag states have adopted a zero-tolerance drug policy, but they have no method of enforcing this and pass on the directive to management companies to enforce. ‘Captain-managed’ superyachts frequently carry out their own testing.

One of the directives from the STCW 2010 Manila amendments states; “In order to identify drug and alcohol abuse, screening programmes should be implemented for all whose duties involve designated safety, prevention of pollution and security duties to prevent alcohol and drugs from impairing the ability of crew”. It would seem that many companies are not aware of or are ignoring this regulation.

CHIRP looked into the matter further and learned that simple urine sample, multi-drug detection kits are available.

A basic (13 drug spectrum) urine test kit costs around £12 / 15 USD and its primary function is to indicate if a seafarer is “drugs free”. If this initial (13 drug spectrum) test does not come back as ‘clear’, the same urine sample can be used for a more detailed testing, but for that a separate kit is required for each of the 13 drugs you are testing for. These more specific single drug test kits cost approximately £48 / 60 USD per drug being tested for.

CHIRP notes that the reporters’ comments apply to all mariners and not just the fishing sector. It is also worthy of note that, for drug and alcohol testing, there are several companies which offer services to conduct initial and follow up D&A testing. The services are not cheap, which simply reinforces the adage “What price HSSE?”