The following transportation safety issue was previously on the NTSB’s Most Wanted List. As a result of the actions taken to implement the necessary life-saving safety recommendations…We are Safer.
In September 1996, a tankship carrying heating oil collided with a pier in Portland, Maine. Although the NTSB did not cite drug or alcohol use as a factor in the probable cause of the accident, the NTSB identified continuing problems in conducting postaccident alcohol and drug testing. The NTSB added this issue area to the Most Wanted List in 2002 citing the following concerns: (1) the potential effects of alcohol or drug abuse as a causal factor in major marine accidents frequently could not be ruled out because testing was often not done correctly or in a timely manner, (2) breath or blood samples, which are prescribed specimens for alcohol testing, were not always obtained, (3) and regulations for alcohol and drug testing were unclear.
In December 2005, the U.S. Coast Guard published its final rule, Marine Casualties and Investigations: Chemical Testing Following Serious Marine Incidents. Several critical changes improving marine safety were made. Regulations now specify that alcohol testing should occur more rapidly than drug testing, within 2 hours of a serious marine incident, and that Coast Guard personnel or local law enforcement can conduct the alcohol testing if there is concern that such testing will not be completed. These regulations also clarify that breath and blood specimens are for determining alcohol presence, and urine specimens are used for determining the presence of dangerous drugs.
Concern for testing on foreign commercial vessels traveling on U.S. navigable waters and U. S. oceangoing vessels was also addressed. These vessels are now required to have on board breath-testing devices capable of determining alcohol in a person’s systems as well as urine specimen collection and shipping kits. These vessels must also have a plan in place that addresses which crewmembers will conduct postaccident testing, what qualifications are appropriate for crewmembers who conduct testing, how the testing specimens will be handled, and what records are to be prepared.