New Alcohol limits at Sea

Under the Maritime Safety Act of 2005, part 3 of that Act introduced a code of practice for the safe operation of vessels.

Under the Act, sections 28, 29, and 30 introduced controls in relation to the operation of vessels while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, drunkenness of passengers and crew members and control of consumption of alcohol or drugs on board a vessel.

Section 28 of the act provides that an offence shall be committed if the person has consumed drugs or alcohol (or both) to such an extent as to be “incapable of properly controlling or operating the vessel or carrying out the task or duty”.

Under Section 28, there is a maximum fine of €5,000 and/or a prison term of three months or both.

Section 29 provides that it is an offence where a person is in command or charge of another member of the crew of a vessel and that person is under the influence of either drugs or alcohol that they shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding €5,000.

Finally, in relation to Section 30. This prohibits anybody on board an Irish vessel anywhere or a vessel in Irish waters, shall not consume alcohol or drugs where it could affect the safety of the persons or create a disturbance or serious nuisance.

The section goes on to make it an obligation on anybody who is in control of a vessel to ensure that the crew member will comply with such a requirement.

Again, the potential penalty in that circumstance is a fine not exceeding €5,000 and an imprisonment term of not greater than three months.

Marine Notice 6 of 2012

Marine Notice 6 of 2012 has given further bite to these particular sections by setting limits. The Marine Notice gives effect the international convention on standards of training, certification and watchkeeping for seafarers (STCW) 2012.

Alcohol Limits

The limits of alcohol is not greater then 0.5% for blood alcohol or 25 mg per litre alcohol in the breath for Masters, Officers and other Seafarers while performing designated safety security and maritime duties. This rate is comparable for the current drink drive limit of 35 mg for Drink Driving offences.

The Marine Notice called upon all companies and operators to implement a strict written policy and calls upon these limits to be complied with as they may be tested while the vessel is in a foreign port.

In light of recent maritime disasters, and the allegation that in relation to the MV Costa Cordia, that there had been alcohol consumed by the Skipper, I believe this is going to raise serious consequences for all seafarers. The position is that in the current climate where we have seen 17 people found dead following the collision off the coast of Italy, that this is an area that is going to be policed with some vigour and it is not unthinkable that should an accident arise in the course of the investigation, much like a road traffic accident, that the question of alcohol consumption could arise as a matter of normal course. Should an incident have occurred and a Skipper or officer be found with alcohol or drug levels above the prescribed limits, then it is a foregone conclusion that a prosecution will ensue.

Depending on the extent of the circumstances and consequences of the accident, the matter may not be restricted to simply a fine.

It would appear in Italy that the authorities will prosecute the Skipper of the MV Costa Cordia with manslaughter at the very least.

Dermot Conway
contact Dermot at 0214901000 or