USCG rates reveal drug problem among mariners

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - The United States Coast Guard has released its random drug testing rates for 2005, and the National Marine Charter Association is pointing out to its members that the rates show a significant problem among licensed mariners that needs focus and attention, NMCA reported in a release today.

Federal regulations mandate employers to test 50 percent of their safety-sensitive employees per year, and allow that rate to drop to 25 percent if the overall industry has a positive rate of less than 1 percent, NMCA said.

While other modes of transportation, such as airlines and railroads, have been able to drop to 25 percent, the marine industry has remained at a required 50 percent, because 2.07 percent of its captains and crew tested positive for drugs in 2003, according to NMCA.

By comparison, only .56 percent of safety sensitive employees in the airline industry and only .93 percent of safety sensitive employees in the railroad industry tested positive for drugs in 2003. Furthermore, the positive rate for those in the marine industry is actually up from 1.8 percent in 2002. This is especially problematic for the industry as overall Department of Transportation random drug testing positive result rates have fallen from 2.6 percent to 1.9 percent since 1999. 

“The key to a compliant program, and keeping positive rates down, is an effective deterrence and detection program requiring pre-employment and for-cause testing, in addition proper selection procedures, and it should not be assumed that all programs do this,“ NMCA executive director Melissa Moskal said.

Non-compliance with federal regulations can bring a fine of $5,000 per day.

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