Providing Guaranteed Compliance with the coast guard's drug
testing regulation, with over 9000 members

The following is a key document of the US Coast Guard which summarizes and explains the drug and alcohol testing regulations. This is not a Maritime Consortium document, so we do not make any representations to its accuracy, nor is it an endorsement of our Consortium.



Code of Federal Regulation Sites that Contain Testing Requirements


Applicability: When a Testing Program is Required and Who Needs to be Tested

Drug Testing Procedures (Simplified)

Collection Site Requirements

Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Laboratory Requirements

Specimen Analysis

Testing Requirements

  1. Pre-employment
  2. Periodic
  3. Random
  4. Serious Marine Incident
  5. Post Accident
  6. Reasonable Cause


Medical Review Officer (MRO)


Quality Assurance: Blind Tests

Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

Company Policy Statement

Mangement Information System (MIS)

The Three R's of a Positive Test

Refusals and Excuses

The Drug Program Audit


Frequently Asked Questions


  1. Where To Get Information About....
  2. Sample Drug and Alcohol Policy
  3. Sample Report to Coast Guard
  4. MIS Report, Form CG-5573
  5. Report of Required Chemical Drug and Alcohol Testing Following a Serious Marine Incident, Form CG-2692B
  6. Chemical Test Reporting Agreement
  7. USCG Chemical Testing Program Inspection Checklist



These citations provide more information on the chemical testing requirements. See enclosure 1 for methods of obtaining these regulations.

  1. 46 CFR 4.06 Coast Guard - Mandatory Chemical Testing Following Serious Marine Incidents Involving Vessels in Commercial Service
  2. 46 CFR 16 Coast Guard - Chemical Testing: types of testing required and procedures for the marine employer (when and who to test).
  3. 49 CFR 40 DOT - Procedures for Transportation Workplace Drug Testing Programs: procedures for all DOT-regulated drug testing, includes technical regulations for collection and testing (how to test).
  4. 33 CFR 95 Coast Guard - Operating a Vessel While Intoxicated: sets the standard for alcohol intoxication and contains authority for chemical testing, primarily for alcohol. 33 CFR 95 is not discussed in this guide.

Failure, on the part of a marine employer, to implement or conduct chemical testing for dangerous drugs or for evidence of alcohol may result in a civil penalty of $5,000.00 per day for each violation. Each day of a continuing violation constitutes a separate violation. (46 United States Code, Section 2115)



Chain of Custody - Procedures to account for the integrity of each urine or blood specimen by tracking its handling and storage from point of specimen collection to final disposition of the specimen. Procedures include the use of a drug testing custody form at collection and a laboratory chain of custody form.

Chemical Test - a scientifically recognized test which analyzes an individual's breath, blood, urine, saliva, bodily fluids, or tissues for evidence of dangerous drug or alcohol use.

Crewmember - an individual who is:

(a) On board a vessel acting under the authority of a license, certificate of registry (COR), or merchant mariner's document (MMD), whether or not the individual is a member of the vessel's crew; or

(b) Engaged or employed on board a vessel owned in the United States that is required by law or regulation to engage, employ, or be operated by an individual holding a license, COR, or MMD.

DangerousDrug - a narcotic drug, a controlled substance.

Employer - marine employer or sponsoring organization.

Marine Employer &endash; any one or more of the following: the owner, managing operator, charterer, agent, master, or person in charge of a vessel, other than a recreational vessel.

Medical Review Officer (MRO) - a licensed physician responsible for receiving lab results generated by an employer's drug testing program, and who has the medical expertise to interpret, discuss and evaluate an individual's confirmed positive test.

Refuse to Submit - crewmember fails to provide a urine sample without a genuine inability to provide a specimen, after he/she has received notice of the requirement to be tested.


APPLICABILITY: When a Testing Program is Required and Who Needs to Be Tested

The marine employer is responsible for administering the drug and alcohol testing program for their employees. Certain crewmembers are subject to the regulations of Part 16. If a license, certificate of registry (COR), or merchant mariner's document (MMD) is required by at least one person on the vessel, then that person, and possibly more could be subject to the regulations based upon their responsibilities on the vessel. Each vessel must be evaluated independently using the definitions of "crewmember" and "operation" to determine person-specific applicability. Any crewmember who performs a safety related function on board the vessel, including but not limited to line handling, steering the vessel, distributing life vests, or ensuring the safety of the passengers, is required to be included in the program.

With the exception of serious marine incident testing requirements, the regulations contained in Part 16 are not applicable to foreign flag vessels or those vessels that do not require licensed personnel. Examples of vessels where licensed personnel are not required (and therefore these regulations do not apply) are towing vessels under 26 feet in length and commercial fishing industry vessels under 200 gross tons.



Step 1. Employer has employee submit to test at an approved collection site

Step 2. Collection site receives specimen

Step 3. Collection site ships specimen to Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) certified lab

Step 4. Lab receives specimen, ensures security of sample, begins processing for tests.

  1. Lab initiates first test by immunoassay (screening)
  2. If negative, testing stops - negative reported.
  3. If positive, testing continues.
  4. Lab initiates second test by Gas
  5. Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS), a confirmation test
  6. If negative, negative reported.
  7. If positive, confirmed positive.

* Lab places all confirmed positive samples into frozen storage.

Step 5. Lab reports all results to the employer's Medical Review Officer (MRO).

Step 6. MRO verifies confirmed positive.

  1. Reviews positive report documents
  2. Notifies employee of positive test results
  3. Provides employee opportunity to discuss results
  4. Reviews any pertinent medical records
  5. Reviews medical history, other factors
  6. Processes employee request for retest (if appropriate)

Step 7. MRO notifies employer of positive test by telephone, electronically, or in writing.

Step 8. Marine employers report positive test results in writing to the nearest USCG Marine Safety Office.

The marine employer will safeguard the confidentiality of the program and shall not release drug testing or other personal information except to the person who was tested, to a third party that the tested person specifies in writing, or to the Coast Guard.



The sample must be collected at an adequate location. The regulations are very specific in how specimens are collected, and how specimen containers are sealed and transported. Chain of custody must be maintained from the time of collection of the specimen to its testing. The marine employer needs to ensure that the collection site uses DOT collection procedures. Some certified labs have designated sites and individuals allowed to collect and maintain samples to ensure the sample’s integrity.


(46 CFR 16.340)

The employer shall ensure that all chemical testing for dangerous drugs required by this part is conducted by a Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) certified laboratory. These laboratories shall meet the requirements of 49 CFR 40. See enclosure 1 for more information on certified labs.



A URINE specimen is the only acceptable means by which to test for the presence of drugs. Each specimen shall be analyzed in accordance with 49 CFR 40.29, which requires testing for all of the below at specified cutoff levels:

  1. Marijuana
  2. Cocaine
  3. Opiates
  4. Phencyclidine (PCP)
  5. Amphetamines.

This test is commonly referred to as the DOT 5-panel test. If an employer wishes to test for additional drugs or use a different cutoff level, the employer must keep such a program separate from the DOT required testing program, including separate sample collections.

Testing for alcohol in the marine industry may be conducted using breath or blood. If blood is tested, only a qualified medical person may collect it. Breath testing may be done by anyone trained to conduct such tests. The Coast Guard does not mandate the use of Evidential Breath Testing devices.



Pre-employment (46 CFR 16.210)

A marine employer must conduct a drug test and receive a negative result prior to employing any crewmember. A Pre-employment test may be waived if the applicant provides proof (for example, a test result or a letter from a company who conducted the random program) of one of the following conditions:

  1. The person has passed a Coast Guard required drug test within the previous six months with no subsequent positive test results.
  2. The person has been subject to a Coast Guard random drug testing program for 60 of the past 185 days, and has not failed or refused a test. "Being subject to random testing" means that the individual has been eligible to be tested, not that they have necessarily been tested.

An employer is not required to exempt prospective employees from pre-employment testing.

Periodic (46 CFR 16.220)

Whenever a physical examination is required for an individual, a chemical test for dangerous drugs must be included as part of the physical examination. This type of testing is not necessarily the responsibility of the marine employer.

Physical exams are required for the following:

  1. Licensing and Certificates of Registry (46 CFR 10)
  2. Certification (46 CFR 12)
  3. Shipment and Discharge of Seaman (46 CFR 14)
  4. Vessel Manning (46 CFR 15)

A drug test must be included when applying for a license or merchant mariner's document. The results of the test must be provided to the Regional Exam Center (REC).

All persons required by the regulations to take periodic exams must provide each test result to the REC when applying for a renewal.

A periodic test is not required if there is proof (for example, a test result or a letter from a company who conducted the random program) of one of the following conditions:

  1. The person has passed a Coast Guard required drug test within the previous six months with no subsequent positive test results.
  2. The person has been subject to a Coast Guard random drug testing program for 60 of the past 185 days, and has not failed or refused a test. "Being subject to random testing" means that the individual has been eligible to be tested, not that they have necessarily been tested.

Random (46 CFR 16.230)

A person may not serve (including self-employment) on a vessel as master, operator, or person in charge, unless there is an active random drug testing program which covers ALL the required crewmembers who are subject to random testing.

Each marine employer is required to test crewmembers on a random basis at an annual rate of greater than or equal to 50 percent. No other tests, such as pre-employment or SMI, can be counted toward the 50 percent. (Example: If 11 employees are covered under random testing, at least 6 persons are required to be tested per year. Five would be less than 50% and is not adequate to meet this requirement.)

Random drug tests are required for the following crewmembers:

Inspected Vessels

  1. Those who occupy a position, or perform the duties and functions of a position required by the vessel's COI;
  2. Those who perform duties and functions of patrolman or watchman;
  3. Those with specifically assigned duties of warning, mustering, assembling, assisting, or controlling passenger movements during emergencies.

Uninspected Vessels

  1. Those required by law or regulation to hold a CG issued license to perform duties on the vessel;
  2. Those who perform duties and functions directly related to the safe operation of a vessel;
  3. Those who perform duties and functions of patrolman or watchman;
  4. Those with specifically assigned duties of warning, mustering, assembling, assisting, or controlling passenger movements during emergencies.

Random testing means:

  1. All crewmembers have an equal chance of selection;
  2. **Rather than select individuals, a marine employer may randomly select vessels within their fleet and test all crewmembers, as long as the vessels are equally subject to selection.
  3. The chance of selection exists for the entire employment period of the person;
  4. **There should not be periods when an employee is "free" from chance of selection or high-risk/low-risk selection periods.
  5. The dates of testing must be random;
  6. **For example: randomly picking names each payday is not acceptable because the date is predictable and the employees could "beat" the test.
  7. A scientifically-based method of selection is used;
  8. **For example: random number table or computer-based random number generator.
  9. Dates of tests are spread reasonably throughout the year;
  10. An individual subject to random testing does not manage the random process.

The random testing program functions may be accomplished by forming sponsor organizations or hiring contractors. See the section titled "Consortiums" on page 14.

Serious Marine Incident (46 CFR 16.240, 46 CFR 4.06)

Post-accident drug and alcohol testing regulations apply to all U.S. commercial vessels operating anywhere in the world and all foreign vessels operating upon the navigable waters of the U.S. When a marine casualty occurs, the marine employer needs to make a timely, good faith determination as to whether the occurrence is or is likely to become a serious marine incident as described in 46 CFR 4.06. A marine employer shall require all persons (not limited to crewmembers) on board the vessel(s) whom the employer determines to be directly involved in a serious marine incident to be chemically tested for dangerous drugs and alcohol.

An individual whose order, action, or failure to act is determined to have, or cannot be ruled out as having, caused or contributed to a serious marine incident is "directly involved". A law enforcement officer, such as a Coast Guard officer or a state or local police officer, may also determine that a person was directly involved in a serious marine incident. If this happens, the marine employer shall then take all practicable steps to collect a sample.

The regulation requires that all alcohol tests be conducted within two hours of the incident and that drug tests be collected within 32 hours of the incident. Failure to comply with the two hour alcohol testing requirement may lead to further action. They also state that the regulations shall not prevent a person from performing duties in the aftermath of an accident to protect lives, property, or the environment. If there are safety concerns to be addressed, then up to 8 hours is allowed for the alcohol test to be completed. No alcohol testing is required after 8 hours has elapsed from the time of the SMI.

To meet this mandate, it is recommended that marine employers identify, in writing, as part of their program, under the heading of post accident testing, resources available to them, 24-hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, in the areas their vessels operate. These resources should include how and where tests for drugs and alcohol are to be performed. This may require the carriage of alcohol testing devices or screening devices on board the vessel and personnel that are trained on how to correctly use these same devices.

Urine collection and shipping kits must be maintained aboard vessels unless they can be obtained within 24 hours of an incident. Inspected vessels certificated for unrestricted ocean routes or restricted overseas routes must have a breath testing device on board to test for alcohol.

Serious marine incident (46 CFR 4.03-2) means any marine casualty or accident, required by regulations to be reported to the Coast Guard and resulting in:

  1. one or more deaths;
  2. an injury to any person (including passengers) which requires medical treatment beyond first aid and, in the case of a person employed on board a commercial vessel, which renders the person unable to perform routine vessel duties;
  3. damage to property over $100,000;
  4. actual or constructive total loss of any inspected vessel;
  5. actual or constructive total loss of any uninspected, self-propelled vessel of 100 gross tons or more;
  6. discharge of 10,000 gallons or more of oil into U.S. navigable waters (whether or not a result of a marine casualty);
  7. a reportable discharge of a hazardous substance into U.S. waters, or release of reportable quantities into the U.S. environment (whether or not a result of a marine casualty).

Post-Accident Reporting Requirements

A Coast Guard form CG-2692B, Report of Required Chemical Drug and Alcohol Testing Following a Serious Marine Incident, must be submitted to the appropriate Officer in Charge, Marine Inspection (ocmi) following any serious marine incident. A copy of CG-2692B can be found in enclosure 5. This form should be submitted along with a form CG-2692, Report of Marine Accident, Injury or Death, if a CG-2692 is required to be submitted. The drug test results will not always be available when the CG-2692 and CG-2692B are submitted. The marine employer must report the test results when they are received, regardless of a positive or negative result.

Reasonable Cause (46 CFR 16.250)

A marine employer shall require any crewmember that is reasonably suspected of using a dangerous drug to be chemically tested for dangerous drugs. The decision to test must be based on reasonable belief that the individual has used a drug based on immediate observation of physical, behavioral, or performance indications of probable use. When available, observation should be made by two persons who are in supervisory positions.

When the marine employer determines that reasonable cause to require a test exists, the individual must be informed of that fact and directed to test as soon as practicable. Never allow these people to drive themselves to the collection site.

An entry concerning the basis of reasonable cause, the order to test given to the crewmember, and any refusal or other response should be documented. A log entry must be made whenever an official ship's log is required.

Reasonable cause means a probability exists, based on some evidence, that a crewmember is intoxicated by or has used drugs or alcohol. Generally the following elements must be present to have "reasonable cause" to require drug testing:

  1. Direct observation of the suspected crewmember and/or any physical evidence by two persons in supervisory positions. This means the supervisors must personally see the evidence for themselves.
  2. There must be some physical, behavioral, or performance indication of use or intoxication. Indicators include but are not limited to:
  3. an individual's speech, behavior, or appearance
  4. drugs and drug paraphernalia in clothing and personal property, or concealed in staterooms or elsewhere
  5. smoke, breath, and body odors
  6. slurred and incoherent speech
  7. lack of coordination and balance
  8. nodding and dozing off on watch
  9. inability to report for duty
  10. frequent or extended unexplained absences from assigned duties
  11. sudden or wide changes of mood.

(Since illness, injury, or other factors could also cause these circumstances and conditions, the decision to test for reasonable cause must be made with prudence and common sense. Reasonable cause testing supports the need for an effective Employee Assistance Program (EAP) as discussed on page 10.)


RECORDS (46 CFR 16.260)

For tests reported positive by the MRO, the marine employer is to keep the records for at least five years. All negative test results are to be kept for at least one year.

A marine employer must have test records that will permit an individual to obtain confirmation that an employee has passed a pre-employment test (this means keeping pre-employment records for all employees throughout their entire employment) and has been subject to random testing. Any return-to-work letters from MROs should be kept on file, if applicable. A marine employer must also have records that reflect:

  1. The total number of individuals chemically tested annually for dangerous drugs in each of the categories of testing required, and
  2. The number of individuals who tested positive and for what types of drugs.

**Copies of previous MIS forms will serve as excellent records for past years.



The Medical Review Officer (MRO) must be a licensed physician who has knowledge of substance abuse disorders. The marine employer shall designate or appoint a MRO meeting the qualifications of 49 CFR 40.33. If the employer does not have a qualified individual on staff to serve as MRO, the employer may contract for the provision of MRO services as part of its drug testing program.

The MRO shall review and interpret each confirmed positive test result in accordance with 49CFR 40.33. The MRO will consider over-the-counter and prescription medication, as well as physical ailments.

The MRO also reviews the chain-of-custody and other procedures to insure that there is no possibility of error or "mix-up." If there is a legitimate explanation or a possibility of error, the MRO will not verify the test as positive.

If the MRO verifies a laboratory confirmed positive report, the MRO shall report the positive test result to the employer or the employer’s designated agent.

Before an individual who has failed a required chemical test for dangerous drugs may return to work aboard a vessel, the MRO shall determine that the individual is drug-free and the risk of subsequent use of dangerous drugs by that person is sufficiently low to justify his or her return to work. In addition, the individual shall agree to be subject to increased, unannounced testing for a period of up to 60 months as determined by the MRO.


RETESTING (49CFR40.33(e) & (f))

The mariner has one opportunity to make a request for retest of the "same sample", which must be within 72 hours after the Medical Review Officer (MRO) made contact with the individual. Only this MRO can direct re-test. Re-test is to be conducted in a separate certified lab. Submitting a separate sample does not apply and is not valid to negate the first positive test result.



While the testing laboratories are required to maintain stringent in-house quality assurance programs, marine employers are also required to play a role in ensuring the accuracy of the drug tests. Marine employers should submit three (3) "blind performance" test specimens for every 100 employee specimens submitted for testing.

A blind specimen is a urine specimen with a fictitious identifier submitted to a laboratory for quality control testing purposes. The laboratory cannot distinguish it from any other specimen submitted for testing. This specimen may either contain a known quantity of a specific drug or may be a blank (contain no drug).

Blind samples with specific quantities of a drug can be purchased from pharmaceutical companies. A drug testing consortium should provide these blind tests on behalf of their members.

The marine employer is required to notify the Coast Guard immediately of any unsatisfactory performance test result from a laboratory so that the incident can be investigated.



The marine employer must establish an EAP. The marine employer may establish the EAP as part of its internal personnel services or the employer may contract with an entity, such as a consortium, that will provide EAP services to a crewmember. This EAP must include education and training.

The requirements of the educational program must include display and distribution of:

  1. information on drug use/abuse;
  2. a community service, substance abuse hot-line telephone number for crewmember assistance;
  3. the marine employers drug and alcohol policy.

The requirements of the training program must include:

  1. the effects of drug and alcohol use on personal health, safety, and the work environment;
  2. the behavioral indications of drug and alcohol use/abuse;
  3. documentation of training completed by employees.

Supervisors must be given sixty (60) minutes of training, which should also be documented. Documentation can be in the form of a letter, memo, or log entry attesting to the date/time, type of training, and personnel attending.

An EAP is a work-site based program designed to assist in identifying and resolving productivity problems arising from personal concerns affecting an employee. The Coast Guard Chemical Testing Regulations only require an employer to provide education and training as previously stated. However, EAPs may include resources to assist employees with other issues, such as health, financial, marital, family and legal.



The company policy statement should clearly identify the company’s position regarding substance abuse and describe the actions that will occur if the policy is violated. The written company policy can provide protection. Companies without a written chemical testing policy may be subject to legal actions by disgruntled former employees. A sample chemical testing policy is included in this guide (enclosure 2).



The marine employer must collect drug and alcohol testing program data for input to the Management Information System (MIS). This data is collected for each calendar year, January 1 to December 31, and must be submitted by March 15 of the following year on Form CG-5573.

Data may be submitted by a drug testing consortium on behalf of a marine employer. In this case, the marine employer must notify Commandant (G-MOA) in writing of the consortium or representative that will submit the employer's data. The marine employer remains responsible for ensuring that the data is submitted and is accurate. Marine employers with 10 or less employees who submit their own MIS form (not via a consortium) and who have submitted for three years in a row will be exempt from further submissions.

The data shall be submitted to: Commandant (G-MOA)

U. S. Coast Guard

2100 Second Street SW

Washington, DC, 20593-0001

A copy of CG-5573 can be found here




Any crewmember that fails any required drug test must immediately be removed from duties that directly affect the safe operation of the vessel (or denied employment in the case of a pre-employment test). This requirement applies to all persons who fail drug tests, whether or not they hold a license, COR, or MMD.


Marine employers must make a written report to the Coast Guard of all positive drug tests resulting from any required testing of an individual who has a license, COR, or MMD issued by the Coast Guard. Positive test results must be reported both for present and prospective employees. The marine employer must make this report whether or not the individual was hired and regardless if the position required a license, COR, or MMD is required. As long as the person has credentials issued by the Coast Guard, a report must be made to the Coast Guard. A sample report can be found in enclosure 3.

Marine employers are not required to report positive pre-employment drug test results to the Coast Guard for persons who do not have licenses, CORs, or MMDs. However, these individuals may not be employed. Alldrug and alcohol test results must be reported following a serious marine incident, regardless of citizenship or whether or not the persons tested hold Coast Guard papers.

Review Options

Anyone who has tested positive for use of a dangerous drug must obtain a "drug-free" letter from an MRO, as per 46 CFR 16.370, prior to being allowed to return to work in any safety related position. This includes the mariner who does not hold a license, MMD, or COR.

There are several options available, none of which are a ‘quick fix’. A common misconception is that by providing a subsequent drug test result, which is negative, the matter of the positive test will end. This is not true. The Coast Guard will continue to prosecute the positive test result regardless of any negative test taken thereafter.

Licensed individuals may "Voluntarily Deposit" their license or document with the Coast Guard to show good faith that they are going to correct the situation in the minimal time. This deposit does not exempt the mariner from any proceedings, but it gets the process started and shows good faith.

Mariners may opt to go to a Suspension and Revocation (S&R) hearing in front of a federal Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The hearing is administrative in nature and concerns only the mariner’s right to continued use of a Coast Guard issued license, MMD, or COR. It will not result in fines or imprisonment. It is the mariner’s burden to provide proof that will negate the test results. The Coast Guard will recommend and seek revocation as per Title 46 United States Code (USC), Article 7704.

The mariner may surrender their license/document. They will be eligible to reapply for their license under "Administrative Clemency". Normally this is three years after the license or document is surrendered.

The last option is to enter into "Joint Motion", where you agree with the Coast Guard to undergo counseling, rehabilitation (as deemed necessary by medical authority), and accelerated testing for a period of 12 months. There will be no exceptions to these requirements.



Employees must provide a urine sample for drug testing and a blood or breath sample for alcohol testing when directed by their marine employer. A crewmember who holds a license, COR, or MMD who refuses to provide a test sample should be reported to the nearest Coast Guard Marine Safety/Inspection Office for the Coast Guard to take action in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. This may include Suspension and Revocation (S&R) proceedings.

Additionally, previous drug cases have established the precedent that "unconscious ingestion" (you did not knowingly take the drug and don't know how it got in your system) and "passive inhalation" (you did not personally smoke it; you were just standing nearby), are not plausible defenses to a "use of a dangerous drug" charge.



The scope of the audits will include required record keeping and reporting, specimen collection, MRO activities, employee assistance programs, proper designation of crewmembers to be tested, and proper conduct of required tests. To ensure the effectiveness of the program, it should be in a written format and presented to the Coast Guard inspector at the time of the audit. Many consortiums provide the written program as part of their service.

To expedite the drug program audit of an inspected vessel, the records should be available on board the vessel during the inspection. There should also be a representative present who is knowledgeable of the company’s drug testing program and is able to address any questions the inspector may have. However, if the records cannot be made available on board the vessel, please contact the Inspections Department prior to the inspection in order to make alternative arrangements.

Copies of the audit checklists are available in this guidebook (enclosure 7). There are two checklists; one is for a consortium run program and the other is for an employer run program. Marine employers are encouraged to copy and use the applicable form to conduct a pre-audit of their company’s drug testing program. The form will help you determine if your company is in compliance with the regulations, correct any deficient areas, and prepare you for the actual Coast Guard audit.

Uninspected vessel operators who are prepared to conduct an audit are encouraged to contact their local MSO to schedule an audit. Depending on your program, the audit may be done through the mail.

Do not wait until you are contacted for an audit to establish a drug program. The drug testing regulations have been in effect for several years, and marine employers must be in compliance with these regulations. While our desire is to promote compliance through a partnership of education and cooperation, enforcement action will be taken against non-compliant operators. Besides, a good chemical testing and education program could be valuable: protecting you in a third party liability action, decreasing insurance rates, and protecting the valuable personnel who operate your business.


Marine employers, especially smaller companies, may find it advantageous to comply with the chemical testing regulations by joining a chemical testing consortium. Consortiums combine the employees of several companies into a single "testing pool" and administer the chemical testing programs for all the companies as a single entity. Be aware that consortiums differ in services they provide. Some may provide "full service" coverage of the chemical testing regulations, while others may provide only limited services such as a random drug testing pool. Because the marine employer remains ultimately responsible for the company’s chemical testing program, ensure that the consortium you choose is able to meet your specific needs. See enclosure 1 to get more information on consortiums.

When considering civil penalties of as much as $5,000.00 per occurrence for non-compliance, or costs associated with civil liability after an injured customer sues, or post-casualty insurance hikes, the cost of complying with these regulations becomes much more reasonable.


Do I need a chemical testing program?

A prevailing question smaller commercial operators (employing only one or two employees) often ask is "Do the chemical testing regulations apply to me?" The answer is a big "Yes". The chemical testing regulations apply to most commercial vessel operations regardless of the number of employees and regardless of whether the vessel is inspected or uninspected. This includes "guide services".

Do "independent contractors" or part time crewmembers need to be part of a marine employer’s chemical testing program?

Again, the answer is "yes". If an individual meets the definition of a crewmember, as described in 46CFR16.105, they must be part of the chemical testing program, regardless of how short the time period they work on board the vessel. Enclosure 6 has been included in this guide in order to assist with the problem of having part time crewmembers in the chemical testing program.

With bareboat charters, who is responsible for ensuring a drug testing program is in place for that chartered vessel (the hired captain, vessel owner, people who chartered the vessel, etc.)?

The marine employer is responsible. This can be played out in several ways depending on the arrangements/contracts and should probably be looked at on a case by case basis. Any one of the people listed above can play the part of the marine employer. That person must have a chemical testing program in place.

I change mates so frequently; do I have to obtain a pre-employment test for each mate?

The pre-employment test may be waived if one of the conditions under 46CFR16.210 is met. See page 5.

What are the penalties for violation of these regulations?

The following enforcement actions may be taken for noncompliance with the Coast Guard chemical testing regulations:
  1. Certificate of Inspection (COI) may be removed or not issued
  2. Civil Penalty may be assessed of up to $5,000.00 per day per violation
  3. Suspension & Revocation (S&R) proceedings may be initiated against an individual’s license, MMD, or COR
  4. Captain of the Port (COTP) order may be issued
  5. Letter of Warning
  6. CG-835 (deficiency ticket) may be issued.

What about the marine employer who runs a "non-profit" or charity operation and the crewmember who is a "volunteer"?

In these two cases the financial or payment status is not an issue. The requirements for chemical testing still apply.

Are individuals changing positions or ships within a company’s fleet considered "new hires" and need a pre-employment test?


What is a "serious marine incident"?

See page 7.

Are breathalyzer devices required onboard?

Yes, but only for inspected vessels certified for unrestricted ocean or restricted overseas routes.



Substance Abuse

National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information

PO Box 2345

11426-28 Rockville Pike

Rockville, MD 20847-2345

1-800-729-6686 or (301) 468-2600

You can obtain a free catalog, containing thousands of drug prevention products, by calling the toll-free number.

The Drug Testing Regulations

There are several sources available to obtain the regulations.


Order charged to credit card: (202) 512-1800 or Order by fax: (202) 512-2250

Order by mail: Superintendent of Documents

Government Printing Office

PO Box 371954

Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954

Purchases paid by check or money order made payable to Government Printing Office.

Ordering information:

[] 46 CFR, Parts 4 and 16 (volume contains parts 1 through 40)

Order Document No. 869-034-00171-8 Cost: $26.00 each

[] 49 CFR, Part 40 (volume contains parts 1 through 99)

Order Document No. 869-034-00192-1 Cost: $31.00 each

[] Drug and Alcohol Testing Management Information System (MIS)

Data Collection Form (7 copy version)(Pkg of 50)

Order Document No. 050-000-00558-5 Cost: $36.00 Pkg

Community Service Hotline Numbers

Your local telephone directory

Collection Procedures

Secretary of Transportation's Drug Office at (202) 366-3784

Certified Laboratories

At the beginning of each month, the list of DHHS certified laboratories is published in the Federal Register.


DHHS: (314) 443-6014

MIS Form

Copy provided in this guidebook.


The form and its instructions may be obtained at any Marine Safety/Inspection Office.

The forms can also be ordered from the Government Printing Office as indicated in the section titled THE DRUG TESTING REGULATIONS.


If a highly technical, legal, or unique problem arises, you may consult the regulations, Commandant (G-MOA), U.S. Coast Guard at (202) 267-1430.

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