Zero Alcohol Policy on Ships – Good Idea or Bad?

Zero alcohol policy

A couple of months ago, I found myself arguing with a couple of colleagues about zero alcohol policy and the pros and cons of such policy.

It is normal to have different perceptions and opinions, we all have different ideas about almost everything, and that’s fine. However, views that are not factually based are entirely irrelevant and should be treated as such.

Claims that zero alcohol policy is a big favor for the seafarers and the shipping industry, as a whole, is not factually based, it’s a hollow claim. Zero alcohol policy is still a “new thing” and is not yet widely accepted. From all evidence that I had gathered, there are absolutely no signs that anyone will gain anything from it—neither seafarers nor shipping industry, at all. 



The perception that those who drink moderately and responsibly are living an unhealthy life is just nonsense. A healthy way of life is not something that should be or could be enforced through companies’ policies. A healthy way of life is a choice, and that choice is made by the individuals, not by the companies. 

On the other hand, it is very disputable what does a healthy way of life means.

How does one live a healthy life? 

What are the ingredients and amounts one has to take to ensure that he/she is living a healthy life? 

The truth is, there are no standards when it comes to a healthy way of life. What one can benefit from, the other one may not, and contrary.



Our thoughts, our problems, and how we cope with them, regardless of the diet we have, can profoundly affect our health and our ability to perform our daily jobs. Still, we cannot regulate that either through company policies or international rules. 

One of the participants in the discussion said: 

I’m against alcohol because I have seen how alcohol had destroyed my very own family.

Usually, when someone has experienced bad things in the past, his perception towards things associated with a bad experience he had will be emotional, not rational or factual. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for him to get through his childhood with his abusive father, but we can’t make the rules, based solely on our personal experiences and beliefs.

The fact is that the vast majority of the people who drink moderately and responsibly live a healthy life, and a tiny percent of them become addicted to alcohol.



One of the Captains on that forum we have had a discussion has said: 

There is no big deal whether alcohol is allowed or not; humans, especially seafarers, can adapt on, almost, any circumstances and anyway, there are better ways to kill dullness at sea rather than drinking.

If we put aside our social system, the way of life, human needs, human rights, etc., and shift the story to the survival of humankind, I would agree that humans can adapt on, almost, any circumstances. Humans might be able to survive without alcohol. I say MIGHT be, because of the known hypothesis “drunk monkey.” In short, that hypothesis states that natural selection favored primates that tended to alcohol because it was associated with immediate benefits (acting as an appetite stimulant or a cue to finding fruit), consequently increasing caloric gains.

Anyways, to cut a long story short, since being a seafarer is not something extraordinary, and you are not required to switch from regular to survival mode by joining a vessel. Since it is just a steady job as it is sitting in the office passing various rules, policies, or working at a factory, etc., we should not even question whether there should be alcohol on board or not! 

By default, every company should have the same norms and standards when it comes to human needs and rights, including alcohol consumption. Denying someone their right to drink, just because you think that alcohol is unnecessary and that there are better ways to “kill” dullness is utterly hypocritical. If we change the whole system and impose new rules which will apply to the entire society, I might accept it (not necessarily follow it). 



The system we presently have, denying seafarers the right to drink and smoke, or anything else which is mostly accepted by those who live and works ashore is merely hypocritical. It is hypocrisy on the highest level as these products are moved, on a massive scale around the World by vessels, and those imposing the rules are making money out of it.

Also Read- Maritime Industry: Why This Hypocrisy?

In the end, it is your own choice about how you are going to live your life. If your way of life will negatively affect you, your family, your career, your colleagues, or whatever else you should be held responsible for, you should take the consequences for wrong decisions or choices you made.

The companies have the right to ensure that seafarers drink responsibly, but in no way, they have a right to decide whether the seafarers should drink or not. It is up to the seafarers to choose, not the companies.

The article is submitted by Goran Petrović, he is a Navigation officer with one of the leading Maritime Companies.

The authors’ views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of The Maritime Post.



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