CHIRP has received two reports from official sources highlighting the use of drugs on board commercial fishing vessels.
What the reporters told us:
Increasing drug abuse has been identified on several commercial fishing vessels operating in a specific area. Allegedly cocaine is being used by a number of crew members and it was reported that some are actually being paid in cocaine.
The above was backed up by witnessed incidents of irrational and violent behaviour, including verbal outbursts, to such an extent that another vessel was required to take avoiding action to prevent collision. Furthermore, there are recorded incidents of collisions between the reported vessels and fixed offshore structures and the tragic loss overboard of a crew member from one of the boats who was a known drug user.
The problem of drug taking within the global fishing industry is well known and CHIRP has been aware of it for some time. However, this is the first time CHIRP has received any reports on the subject. Since the reports are based upon illegal activity, the issues are in the hands of the local and national authorities – CHIRP cannot investigate further but can publicise the issue. The drug of choice varies from region to region, but all drugs have the same adverse effects on the users. Rational thought processes are impaired, leading to poor decision making on both an individual and group basis. This of course increases the risk of an incident or accident and is a cultural issue which requires addressing both at company and national administration level. A mandatory drug and alcohol policy may be considered a good starting point.
Some companies have introduced a “zero tolerance” policy for both drugs and alcohol. Many seafarers are familiar with some form of breathalyser used to detect alcohol in exhaled breath and they are often carried on board for self- regulation. 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.
Whilst this article started with commercial fishing vessels, the same issues apply to all aspects of seafaring, including professional seafarers, offshore workers, recreational sailors and fishermen.
DRUGS AND THE SEA DON’T MIX.