Maritime Safety Week - Time to close the drink-drive loophole for recreational mariners

Maritime Safety Week

British Ports Association: Time to close the drink-drive loophole for recreational mariners

At the beginning of the UK’s first Maritime Safety Week, the British Ports Association (BPA) has called for new legislation to introduce alcohol limits for non-professional mariners, replicating the rules that already exist for commercial ships in British waters.

Commenting on the anomaly, the BPA’s Chief Executive, Richard Ballantyne, said:

“As it is Maritime Safety Week its right that we revive the debate around the gap in legislation regarding alcohol limits for non-professional mariners. We understand there will be technical challenges to overcome and also that enforcement will not be easy but it cannot be right in this day and age that such a sizeable section of our maritime sector is exempt from drink-drive rules. There have been too many occasions when alcohol has endangered lives in the maritime environment, both within and outside ports and harbours.”

Professional mariners and fishermen in charge of commercial ships are covered by alcohol limits but there is a loophole for those in the leisure sector.

Laws to introduce drink driving offences for non-professional mariners were included in the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003, however, this has never been brought into force.

Mr Ballantyne continued:

“This issue was last seriously looked at a decade ago when there was resistance from parts of the recreational marine community. However times and attitudes are changing and we feel that if the UK Government brought forward proposals now, the marine leisure and yachting sector would be more conducive to change.

“Rules for road users brought about a gradual change in culture for vehicle drivers but without new legislation, in the marine environment, it is difficult to see how we can drive a similar shift in behaviour. We have raised this with the UK Government and would welcome a constructive discussion with organisations such as the Royal Yachting Association and the Cruising Association along with the Department for Transport and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, to look at how legislation might be drafted.”

Maritime Safety Week is a UK Government initiative for the UK maritime sector to promote safety in the marine environment. During the week Government and industry will be able to share knowledge, experience and best practice about what the UK maritime sector is doing to respond to the safety challenges it faces as well as plans for the future.

The BPA will be actively promoting what ports are doing and highlighting the successes of initiatives such as the UK Port Marine Safety Code and the activities undertaken of the port’s industry’s safety organisation, Ports Skills and Safety.