Shipboard Alcohol Policy

With regards to alcohol, I have found in general if you treat people like children they will act like children. Treat them like adults and they will generally act appropriately. Matson’s and APL’s approach (as far as US Flag vessels) makes the most sense IMO. Anything else invites problems.

I respectfully disagree @CaptTimD. Current rules, i.e., CFR’s do not prohibit alcohol onboard ships. It does put strict parameters on its consumption. Maersk’s policy on US Flag ships prohibit alcohol aboard ships but I do not believe that is the case globally.

The policy, rightly or wrongly, is viewed much like Prohibition was back in the 1920’s.


When I was a cadet I sailed with APL and MSC. At MSC we had a drinking problem aboard that was rampant and caused major issues both in port and at sea. People passed out in Pways, drunk on the job, you name it. APL was a wet ship. You could buy beer and wine in the slop chest. Guess how many drinking issues we had?


Opa 90 made things much easier to manage. Angels onboard, perhaps not. But much better awareness regarding .04. tolerance.

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We weren’t wet but a lot of our ships had boozers who kept secret stashes. I was a QMED doing a prelaunch boat check on an FRB and the bosun tried to launch it with me in it, engine cowling was up and open and he hadn’t looked, only my yelling stopped him. He used to walk around all day with a covered coffee mug…a few years later I learned he was fired for drinking on board after a different incident. He had kept himself in a steady buzz all day with his spiked coffee.

The fucking asshole had the nerve to yell back, to which I said what kind of deranged idiot moves a boat with nobody else around, no other spotters or deck people present? My mistake was forgetting a radio but never ever again made that mistake.


Maritime Jim Lehiimage

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More data is needed. In my experience the trips (not the ships) that have problems with alcohol are the ones where the policy is no alcohol but the captain is a drinker at sea.

In that case the captain can’t strictly enforce the policy whereas if some drinking is allowed but not to excess than the captains that are drinkers are able to enforce the policy.

Dry ship, dry captain no (or far fewer) problems.

I know that’s correct but I can’t figure out why every US company I’ve ever worked for has had a zero tolerance policy if it wasn’t USCG required. Is it an insurance thing? Does anyone here know?

I think it’s mostly just a lot easier to have a no alcohol policy, than an alcohol in moderation policy.

It’s probably easier to overlook or manage occasional violations of a no alcohol policy, than it is to manage the frequent abuse of an alcohol in moderation policy.

Personally, I prefer a dry ship.

Getting back to the topic of this particular rape, alcohol was the enabling factor. It would never have happened without alcohol. The rapist was emboldened by alcohol. The victim was disabled by alcohol.

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Technically you are correct, the USCG did not absolutely ban it, but the rules regarding alcohol are pretty strict, nothing over 0.04 or within 4 hours of duty. I would be a fool to claim there was no alcohol on my ship or people didn’t have a beer with their burger at the Anchor Inn but given my policy people went up town and had dinner with whatever beverage but they did NOT return intoxicated, at least what could be determined by observation. If you acted intoxicated, you earned a breathalyzer test and the officers were tasked with determining what was visually impaired. Being in port everyday on the Lakes and working high tempo with lots of moving heavy machinery leaves limited room for error, the same for transiting close waters everyday. If you set a policy of variable tolerance it tends to grow out of hand. Some people should have NONE ever because they don’t stop. The fact that there are problems say much about company and ship culture and maybe it should just be NONE.

Sailed on a couple of Maersk (Danish crewed) ships; policy was 2 opened bottles of beer a day.
People were drunk all the time; off watch, on watch, fighting, complete bunch of idiots.

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If you cant stay dry during your hitch you have a problem.

You signed up knowing the deal. If you stay drunk your while time off, fine by me. Does not affect me one bit. On board where the possibility of needing to react to an emergancy 24/7 where we all rely on and have to trust each other to do our duty so we all can go home is very much my business.


Horizon Lines was a good line back in the day. Alcohol was consumed in off hours, but they seemed to meet schedule. Their demise was not from crew and alcohol but crap, get rich quick management, which of course is the story of the shipping business the world over. I’ve worked on ships where drinking was the norm. Never bothered me as long as the job got done. But we were working 6 to 9 months a hitch. No one ever went to sea to be in a monastery.


Monasteries allowed consumption of wine, and not just for celebrating mass…


So does some fine shipping companies, Religious, ambulance chasers and political fundamentalists have not taken over…yet. :grinning: thank goodness and I don’t even drink


You’re not wrong in theory but a “hitch” deep sea isn’t 7-28 days, it’s nominally 90-120 but in actual fact entirely open-ended. You’re on foreign articles, if you don’t get relieved, you don’t leave. If the job stays on the board well past its time, no one will take it.

Not to mention Trappist Monasteries are famous for making beer

Deep sea fishing was, and still is, considered the most dangerous of jobs. Back in the day, 50 or so years ago, in the UK, deep sea trawlers usually carried a masters bond, tobacco,
and such like, but also beer which was rationed on a daily basis. When working conditions were deemed particularly harsh there was also daily rum rations.

Making beer? Jack Daniels is distilled in a dry county.But yes, I have had few biere in a monastery in Salzburg.

MSC ships are dry. That said, there’s more booze on any MSC GOGO than any bar in Subic. Lots of on-board drunks. Officers, crew, deck, engine, supply.

It doesn’t matter if the captain drinks or not. An MSC captain doesn’t see most of the crew on most days. Most captains rarely deviate from the stateroom- bridge- mess deck route to see anything. I don’t think they want to see anything.

It’s usually better to keep the drunks then to boot them from MSC ships. A drunk usually does some work. If you paid off the drunk there’d just be a another vacant billet unfilled for months. No one wants more vacant billets so the drunks are protected or at least ignored by the rest of the crew.

Assuming that Capt drinks or not is a factor it can’t be the only factor, it’s just one that I"ve observed.

Crew size could be another. Assume a “dry ship” is going to have, as a guess, 2-4 (more or less) crew members that drink daily. With 20 crew that’s 10 - 20% of the crew. Few enough crew members it can be kept on the down low for the most part.