Random drug testing for superyacht crew could increase

Drug testing in the superyacht industry could become a reality for more superyachts after leading security company Akula Yachts announced their new drug testing service.

Recent amendments to the STCW, the manila amendments, Section B-V111/1 recommends that in order to identify drug and alcohol abuse, screening programmes should be implemented for all those whose duties involve designated safety, prevention of pollution and security duties to prevent alcohol and drugs from impairing the ability of crew.

These guidelines came into force 1st January 2012 and Akula Yachts claimed that by adopting them, it is hoped that drug and alcohol abuse will be minimised and where it is identified, it will be before rather than after an incident has occurred.

David Goldie of Akula Yachts, which is based in Bristol, England commented, “In order to meet the requirements imposed by the STCW and to counter any potential drug abuse issues it is most likely that every yacht management company, captain and crew members’ contract dictates that there is a ‘zero tolerance’ to the use of illegal drugs in the work place.”

Akula Yachts also explained that one of the most effective ways is for management companies to introduce random drug testing to the crew on board the yachts that they are responsible for.

David commented, “Introducing random workplace drug and alcohol screening often has the benefit of reducing casual drug usage even without the need for regular or expensive drug screening. A totally random screening programme is all that is required to motivate drug and alcohol avoidance behaviour in all but the most resistant and dependent users.”

The thought that the act of introducing random drug tests will suggest that there is a drug problem within the industry was also quashed by David who stated, “There is an element of fear throughout the industry that by introducing a random drug testing policy they are indicating that their yachts have a drug problem. This is not the case as the existence of a regulated ‘Random Drug Testing’ program does not necessarily mean that problems exist. Rather, that activities and programmes are being implemented to promote health and safety and to prevent harm and the occurrence of hazardous situations.

“Successful prevention efforts are ‘pro-active’ rather than ‘re-active’ and indicate a high level of ‘Duty of Care’ by the management company and at the same time acting as a deterrent to those crew that may be considering drug use.”

Long working hours, separation from family and friends, peer pressure, precarious employment conditions, shift work and night work and long ocean voyages are just some of the factors David suggested could lead to the use of drugs on board.

The UK-based company also clarified that there are many questions on technical issues which must be addressed in the process of implementing and operating a testing programme. These include who will be tested, for what drugs, the frequency of testing, the timing of the tests, as well as other factors including procedures and privacy precautions.

After a successful training programme Akula Yachts Ltd are now registered with UK Drug Testing as an authorised company and assessed as competent in the administration, testing and evaluation of results using both the Oral Fluid (Saliva) and Urine testing methods.

The tests are all carried out on board the vessel and consist of both saliva and urine tests. Results are available within 15 minutes and all tests are carried out by an independent party and CE Marked (EU Health and Safety Standards), and FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) approved. Akula yachts claim all tests are 99% accurate.

On the drug testing itself, David said, “Akula Yachts will carry out the ‘random drug test’ on board, on the crew at the time and date specified by the management company/captain. It is also the clients’ decision which method of testing they would wish to be carried out.

“Akula Yachts will send a trained testing officer to the yacht and carry out the test as defined by UK Drug Testing.  Prior to the test the crew will receive a full brief on why the test is taking place, the authority to do so and the process of the actual testing. Each crew member will be required to sign a ‘consent and release’ form which then allows the test to take place and the results made known to the client. The results are known only to the testing officer and Management Company/Captain and are kept in the strictest confidence

“Akula Yachts will provide the results in writing to the client within three working days of the test taking place. Results are confidential with the client and we are not responsible for any subsequent actions taken by the management company/captain in the event of a ‘positive’ result on any one or more drugs.”

For more information, visit Akula Yachts.

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