Hellenic Shipping News interviews S.Stamatopoulos, director general of ELSSI.
The ELSSI Program is being used in all Industries: Shipping, Aviation, Petroleum sector, Mass transportation, Insurance companies and Factories. ELSSI provides a Total Quality Substance Abuse Management Program
offering integrity and legal defensibility. It consists of a SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) approved Lab (highest US accreditation), an MRO Service and an International Collection Network covering 36 countries.
Mr. Stamatopoulos highlights the perils from drug and alcohol abuse, regarding on-board security in vessels. He also points out the various regulations and laws that all ship owners must be aware of, as for that matter and stresses the need for precaution measures to be implemented by all companies in the maritime industry, regarding this serious issue.
Which provisions and measures do ship owners operating their vessels in the U.S. have to be aware of and implement in terms of Drug/Alcohol Testing? Which other laws are now in effect to prevent maritime accidents worldwide, in terms of crew management by ship owners?
Over 80% of marine accidents are caused by human error, as per IMO ? International Maritime Organization. Serious disasters at sea have forced a series of actions to be taken by National and International Organizations and Governments to reduce the incidence of marine accidents:
US OPA 90 (Oil Pollution Act, sections 4101-4106) requires drug and alcohol testing and is enforced by the US Coast Guard.
According to the new final rule effective as of 20 June 2006, the U.S. Coast Guard announced changes to chemical testing requirements following SMIs (Serious Marine Incidents). Specifically, alcohol testing will be required within two hours of a SMI and collection of specimens for drug testing will be required as soon as practicable but no later than within 32 hours.
Maritime guidelines (ISM and ISPS Codes).
Charter Party Clauses (e.g. Exxon Mobil) according to which shipping companies should have random and post accident testing in place.
Shipping Organizations as Intertanco and Bimco are promoting the implementation of drug policies.
Major oil companies have introduced strict requirements governing their own employees, refineries, installations and vessels world-wide.
Which steps do shipowners have to follow, and which ships are possible candidates for inspections?
Substance abuse management programs when properly executed will protect the interests of both employer and employee. They have proven to be a powerful deterrent to drug use, motivating many drug users to think twice before jeopardizing their long-term employment opportunities for the short term pleasure they might perceive from illegal drug use. These programs should be an absolutely necessary part of all Shipping Companies policies.
A Substance Abuse management program should include the following types of test:
Pre-Employment Testing: Used for screening job applicants.
Random (On-Board): Highly effective type because it is unpredictable and unannounced.
Post-Accident: Following an accident as required by the OPA 90 and the U.S Coast Guard new regulations
Reasonable Suspicion: Based on employer?s reasonable belief requiring at the same time proper documentation procedures.
A Substance Abuse program in order to be fully approved according to U.S. legislation and fully protect both shipowner’s and seafarer’s interests, should include all the following parameters :
The COC Procedures
The Chain of Custody Procedures are the ones which will safeguard the integrity of the sample from the time of the collection until the arrival of the sample at the Lab. The COC is divided into the external COC procedures which include the collection, packing and transporting of the sample and the internal COC procedures
which include the registration on arrival of the sample by the Lab.
The Analytical Approach
The most effective analytical system for the detection of drugs of abuse should consist of:
a sensitive, drug-class selective technique such as EMIT (Enzyme immunoassay, employed as the initial screening process to identify negative urine samples and to select presumptive positive specimens.
a highly specific technique, GC/MS, used for confirmation of the presumptive positive results.
The above Analytical Approach, Gas Chromatography / Mass Spectrometry is known as the ”Gold Standard” and is accepted by the Courts, the International Societies and the Forensic Experts
As per the U.S. legislation, all test results should be signed by a special licensed doctor called MRO (Medical Review Officer). He will make the final diagnosis if the positive test is a direct result of Drug or Alcohol abuse or it is justified by a possible medication taken by the donor. No other medical doctor has the legal right to review and sign drug/alcohol test results.
It is very important to mention here that the Oil Polution Act of 1990 does not refer ONLY to tanker vessels but to all vessels entering U.S. waters, whose cargo may cause sea pollution in case of an accident.
What is the cost of compliance to the new measures? What are the penalties/fines of the new mandatory in the U.S.?
It is very important to understand that the new U.S.Coast Guard regulation concerning changes to Chemical Testing requirements following SMI?s, effective as of the 20th of June 2006, refers to Serious Marine Incidents and not to type of vessels. Therefore all vessels should comply with this new law. As specified, Alcohol Testing will be required within two hours after a SMI and collection of specimens for Drug Testing will be required within 32 hours.
Therefore, all vessels should be equipped with an alcohol device to perform tests and have results within two hours and a Drug Sampling Kit to collect urine specimens and send them to a U.S Lab for testing within 32 hours.
The Alcohol devices should be approved by NHTSA (National Highway Traffic System Administration). NHTSA issued two Conformity Product Lists, the ASD (Alcohol Screening Device) list and the EBT (Evidential Breath Testing) list which include all the approved devices. The cost for equipping a vessel with such alcohol devices depends on ship owner?s choice and varies from USD 150 up to some thousands of dollars. The Alcohol devices need to be either calibrated or replaced after a period of time depending on the device. The Drug Sampling Kit will be bought only once and its price varies from USD 100 ? USD 500.
Robert Schoening, the U.S. Coast Guard’s Drug and Alcohol program manager, said failure to abide by this law would make ship owners liable for civil fines as prescribed in US statutes, which currently amounts to $5,500 a day. The federal rule estimates that it would affect a total population of 181,000 commercial vessels, including foreign-flag ships obliged to trade in U.S. ports.
Are Hellenic shipping companies aware of the dangers caused by alcohol or drug abuse on board of their vessels and do they take some king of measures, in order to prevent such behaviour?
Hellenic shipping companies that trade in US ports have implemented Substance Abuse programs to prevent Drug/Alcohol Abuse. Most Hellenic ship owners are not very receptive, probably for economy reasons. As a comparative example, in the US all ships and all government agencies as required by law and over 90% of private sector companies implement drug/alcohol policies, enforced by testing.
In Greece very few coastal shipping companies implement a drug/alcohol policy. The ISM code, article 6.2 requires ”that each ship is manned with qualified, certificated and medically fit seafarers”. It should be evident that a seafarer under the influence of a drug is not medically fit. The mariner (and the ship owner) is therefore called upon, not only to protect himself, but also his livelihood, the ship. We have an unpleasant situation where, unfit mariners, are employed unknowingly by coastal companies that do not have a drug/alcohol policy.
Ship owners, perhaps, do not realize that an ”unfit mariner” has 3 times more
probability of causing a serious accident.
According to the EMCDD (European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Abuse), the work place environment is most suitable for the further development and implementation of drug/alcohol control.
Which are the most common violations of crew members as observed by the maritime industry in general?
The most common violation of mariners, in respect, to a drug/alcohol policy is drinking. In general people do not realize that alcohol is classified as a strong narcotic. The use of Alcohol is socially acceptable, but often it is one of the abused substances. If we compare the withdrawal symptoms of two strong narcotics, heroin and alcohol, alcohol is the worst .
The ship is a ”home away from home”. After a hard day’s work, one beer or a glass of wine with the meal is at the discretion of the ship owner to condone it or to permit it. Drinking on duty, or under the influence when reporting for duty is totally un-acceptable and should be reprimanded.
Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide