Posted by: towmasters | April 15, 2010

The Facts: Mandatory Drug Testing Of Merchant Marine Personnel

By way of the MarEx e-Newsletter comes an excellent 10-page paper, Mandatory Drug Testing Of Merchant Marine Personnel,  from practicing U.S. Coast Guard Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Walter J. Brudzinski. It explains, in detail, the policies and procedures followed by an employer and the Coast Guard whenever a mariner tests positive for illegal drug use. Particularly useful is the explanation of how one goes about satisfying the Coast Guard that one has “cleaned up” and is no longer a threat to the public’s safety or that of their fellow mariners, and what conditions must be met to regain the suspended Merchant Mariner Credential and go back to work. All of the relevant sections of the United States Code and the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations are cited, and I found the writing to be clear and concise. If you want to know just how the present system works this is as good as it gets. Read on…..

…..and here’s a news flash for those who’ve been living under a rock for the last 25 years: be aware that if you do test positive for drugs or alcohol, and no known chain-of-custody or other procedural/testing protocol errors are committed that could void the results, your maritime career is at the very least going to be interrupted for a year or so and may well be over for good, especially if you’ve done it before and then been caught backsliding. It’s as simple as this: positive test results are regarded as prima facie evidence of wrongdoing and it is very unlikely that you’d ever beat the charges leveled against you in an S&R (suspension and revocation) hearing in front of an ALJ.

The applicable sections of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations that cover drug and alcohol testing are located under Shipping at 46 CFR – Part 16: Chemical Testing and under Transportation at 49 CFR – Part 40: Procedures For Transportation Workplace Drug & Alcohol Testing Programs. Further information and guidance can be found in Volume III: Marine Industry Personnel of the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Manual. Look in Chapter 3 – Section E. Dangerous Drug Offenses and Section F. Alcohol Related Convictions (pages 3-6 through 3-8). To download Vol. III click here and scroll down to the U.S. Licensing, Certification, STCW & Manning Information section, then click the 4th item down.

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