Alcohol rules for leisure mariners moved a step closer today with regulations set to be in place by late 2009

The Government is consulting on whether slower, smaller craft should be exempted from drink boating laws that are expected to come into force later this year.

Currently, only leisure boats in excess of 7m long or capable of more than 7 knots are wrapped up in the law, as these, the Government said in 2008, “are faster and larger and therefore more dangerous”.

But the Department for Transport (DfT) now wants to know if boats less than 7m long and capable of only 7 knots should be subject to drink boating regulations.

The two relevant offences are “that of being unable to carry out duties because of an impairment due to alcohol and drugs” and “that of being over the prescribed limits for alcohol (80 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood)”.

Both offences were introduced for professional mariners in 2004 with the Railways and Transport Safety Act, but the Government held back from enforcing them for leisure mariners.

Instead, it launched a consultation in 2004 on whether certain leisure mariners should be exempted from the drink boating offences. Three years later, in 2007, it announced that bigger and faster boats would be included in the law, but those smaller than 7m and only capable of 7 knots or less would be exempt.

Another two years on, and the Government has now decided to consult on whether, after all, these smaller, slower craft should be subject to the two offences.

The consultation will run until 6 May, and subject to gaining Parliamentary approval, the DfT intends to introduce the two offences for leisure mariners late this year.