Calls for new drinkdriv­ing law for sailors

Practical Boat Owner - - News -

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

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