WASHINGTON - With a few kind words for the
marine industry, the Coast Guard lowered random drug testing of crewmembers
from 50 to 25 percent annually.
The new standard for 2013 is
the result of two consecutive years of positive tests below 1 percent, the
Coast Guard said. The rate was 0.77 percent in 2011 and 0.74 percent in 2010.
“The Coast Guard commends marine employers and
mariners for their efforts to create a drug-free workplace and encourages
marine employers and drug testing service providers to continue to submit
accurate, complete and timely” data, the agency said in a Federal Register
notice published this week.
The Passenger Vessel Association,
which had pushed for the change, said the move would lower operators’ costs.
“This action is a breath of fresh
air at a time when regulatory burdens on small business are becoming
unbearable,” PVA president Paul Belforti said in a statement. “PVA will
continue to work for more regulatory relief in other areas as appropriate.”
In its comments on the proposal
last year, PVA cited Small Business Administration statistics that show the
cost of meeting federal regulations is more than $10,000 per employee. “Rest
assured that easing these regulatory requirements will not change the
industry’s commitment to establishing drug-free workplaces,” PVA said.
Horizon Lines Inc.
also noted the deterrence to drug abuse would be the same if the testing rate
were cut. Such a reduction “would save industry an enormous amount of money at
a time when the industry needs all the economic help it can get and would be
less intrusive on the mariners themselves,” the company said.
In issuing the new
guidelines, the Coast Guard warned it would continue monitoring the rate of
positive tests and the quality of the data submitted. And if the rate rises or
the data is subpar, then the commandant may raise the minimum back to 50