PUBLISHED: 3:57 PM on Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Coast Guard enforcing drug, alcohol testing rule changes
ANCHORAGE - The U.S. Coast Guard Seventeenth District is employing a 90-day non-enforcement and education period for changes to the Coast Guard requirements for alcohol and drug testing after a serious marine incident. The 90-day period will allow the operators of most commercial vessels time to adapt to the regulation changes and be in compliance.

SMI is defined as a casualty resulting in one or more deaths, an injury that renders a crewmember unfit to perform vessel duties, damage to property in excess of $100,000, the loss of any inspected commercial vessel or an uninspected vessel over 100 gross tons, a discharge of 10,000 gallons or more of oil, and the release of a reportable quantity of hazardous materials into the navigable waters of the United States.

These regulation changes, announced in the Federal Register of December 20, 2005, became effective June 20, 2006, and require marine employers to insure that their employees involved in an SMI are tested for alcohol use within two hours of the incident. Similarly, mariners involved in an SMI are required to be drug tested within 32 hours. Most commercial vessels will need to carry alcohol testing devices in order to comply with the two-hour deadline.

Drug and alcohol testing following a SMI has been required since 1998. The changes in the regulations address the time period in which the testing must be done. The main purpose of the testing is to tell Coast Guard investigators if drugs or alcohol was present and may have been a contributing factor in the incident.