Breath tests for yachtsmen

The details have yet to be confirmed, but a new transport safety bill looks set to extend breath tests to pleasure boaters

As expected, the Railways and Transport Safety Bill promised by the Government before the last election will extend the breathalyser regime not only to professional seamen, but also to the skippers of private craft.

In response to Government Consultation, the RYA said that alcohol abuse at sea in private craft was not a problem that had been noted by any of the authorities, and that there appeared to be no case for introducing a regime that could target moored or anchored craft, or those on passage offshore. We did acknowledge there could be a case for covering certain harbour, beach or river areas where drunken navigation may be a problem, and where alcohol by-laws have been existence for many years.

The Bill, published in January, appears to have taken some of these concerns into account. While it does not exclude private craft from its remit, it distinguishes between professionals and non-professionals. Non-professional masters will only be subject to testing while a vessel is ‘under way’. The Bill also reserves the details of what size or power of craft will be affected, and in what locations, to regulations to be made later by the Shipping Minister.

Edmund Whelan, Head of Legal and Government Affairs at the RYA said:-

“While the RYA strongly deprecates the abuse of alcohol afloat, Government figures tell us that 90% of our adult population enjoys alcohol, and, in our view, regulations affecting all private craft in all locations would have been unacceptable.

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Although the details of the regulations have yet to be discussed, we are pleased that the Government has taken our concerns on board. We were particularly worried that the skippers of craft safely moored or anchored could be summoned on deck and breath-tested arbitrarily, and that craft on passage well offshore could be boarded by police or other officials for the same reason.

The exclusion of craft not under way is to be welcomed, and we are clearly to be given the opportunity of putting our case to the Shipping Minister that only certain sizes or power of craft in the ‘hot spots’ of harbours, beach areas and rivers need to be included in the regulations.”


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