Calls for new drinkdriving law for sailors
The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) says it wont object to a new drink-driving law for leisure boaters as long as it is ‘based on compelling evidence’ and is ‘clear, understandable and enforceable’.
Its comments come after the British Ports Authority (BPA) announced it wanted to see ‘the drink-drive loophole for recreational mariners’ closed, and for leisure sailors to face the same alcohol limits – 35 micrograms of alcohol in 100ml of breath – which currently exist for captains of commercial ships in British waters.
Attempts to introduce drink-driving offences for recreational boaters, including specific alcohol limits, were made under section 80 of the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003, but these were never bought into force.
At the time, the RYA said it opposed the draft measures as they created ‘confusion and uncertainty’ and were ‘unenforceable’.
The RYA’s cruising manager, Stuart Carruthers, said it encourages all boaters to behave responsibly and to understand how alcohol can affect their safety and the safety of others.
“While we already urge boaters not to mix alcohol and boating, we would not object to legislation based on compelling evidence, provided that it was clear, understandable and enforceable,” he stressed.
The BPA has made it clear that it is willing to work with the RYA, the Cruising Association, the Department of Transport and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to look at how new legislation might be drafted.
The BPA’s chief executive, Richard Ballantyne, said: “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,” he added.
Ballantyne said the BPA understood that “there will be technical challenges to overcome and also that enforcement will not be easy”, but he stressed that “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.”
According to latest available Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) figures, between 2006-2012 there have been 45 fatalities in accidents involving recreational craft in the UK where alcohol was a factor.
Under the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, sailors can already be prosecuted if they endanger other vessels, structures or people and they are under the influence of alcohol.
Most harbour authorities also have local bylaws, which allow boaters to be prosecuted if they are under the influence of alcohol while in charge of a vessel, although the MAIB has publicly stated that these are ‘largely ineffective’, and has previously made recommendations to the Government to expedite the introduction of a national alcohol limit for skippers in charge of pleasure vessels.
The BPA also highlights that the existing legislation does not cover prescribed alcohol limits or provisioning for sampling via breathalysers.
The BPA said current laws do not account for prescribed alcohol limits or provisioning for sampling via breathalysers
Many UK harbours, including Falmouth, have bylaws in place to prevent drink-driving by boaters