From 1655 to 1970, the Royal Navy issued daily rations of rum to their sailors. In the US Navy, alcohol was prohibited in 1913. Now almost 100 years later, the US Navy is going one step farther. Ray Mabus, the Secretary of the Navy, has ordered the installation of breath-test machines on all ships and submarines, as well as on Marine Corps bases.
Navy to place breath-test machines on all its ships
According to Mabus, the breath tests are not intended as a crackdown measure but rather to help identify sailors who might be struggling with booze. The alcohol testing is part of a broader new Navy program designed to improve the physical and mental well-being of those having difficulty coping with the stresses of a decade of war.
“We are not telling you not to drink, if you are old enough,” Mabus told an audience of sailors and Marines Monday afternoon aboard the USS Bataan at Naval Station Norfolk. “We are telling you that it is important to keep legal, responsible use of alcohol from turning into a problem.”
Alcohol can be a problem in both naval and merchant services. On Monday, Georgios Choulis, captain of the M/V Laconia pled guilty to operating a commercial vessel under the influence of alcohol on the Columbia River. M/V Laconia was attempting to cross the Columbia Bar, one of the most dangerous bars in the world, when the Coast Guard and a pilot from the Columbia River Bar Pilots Association boarded the ship and found Captain Choulis sleeping in his berth, smelling strongly of alcohol. His blood alcohol was found to be nearly seven times the legal limit. Captain Choulis was sentenced to one year probation and a $500 fine.
In February, the Danish Navy spotted the Danica Hav, a small cargo ship, zigzagging strangely in the Baltic near the Great Belt strait. The Navy failed in their attempts to contact the ship. A helicopter was dispatched and the boarding party found the Russian captain passed out at the helm, smelling strongly of spirits. The captain was flown to the Roskilde police station where a blood test, taken eight hours after the arrest, showed 2.18 grammes of alcohol per liter. The captain is being held for a hearing on a hearing on March 13.