Reality show highlights maritime law’s drug policy

| Oct 23, 2020 | Maritime Law |

Below Deck Mediterranean is a five-year-old reality show broadcast on the Bravo cable network. It follows the crew aboard a 150-foot yacht as they serve high-end clients and enjoy the job’s perks. The show took a dramatic turn when longtime chief steward Hannah Ferrier asked cabin-mate Malia White for a Valium that she’d brought on board. White later found a packet of Ferrier’s Valium and a vape pen reportedly containing CBD (cannabis oil is legal in Spain). White subsequently texted a photo to the ship’s captain.

Maritime law has strict drug policies

Maritime law has specific rules regarding drug use by those working aboard a vessel. Those with prescribed medication must disclose this to the captain before signing on. The reason is twofold:

  1. To determine whether the crewperson can execute the duties of their job in cases of an emergency.
  2. The drugs must be included on the ship’s manifest to declare them.

The rules storage and usage are similarly strict. Prescription narcotics must be stored in a safe to protect them from theft or abuse. Moreover, these drugs must be administered by a doctor or person in charge of the safe. They also must update the register as the drugs are used.

The captain was less concerned about the steward not providing a prescription for the Valium at the time (she later posted a photo of the script) or that she requested a Valium after a panic attack. Instead, the chief steward violated maritime law, including not divulging usage, the undocumented presence of the drugs on board and self-administering her medication.

Was there harassment?

While the issue of drugs is non-negotiable, Ferrier may have been subjected to bullying by her bunkmate. White referred to Ferrier’s panic attack as a “freak out,” and she manipulated the situation so she could move her boyfriend into her cabin (Ferrier refused to switch when asked). This kind of drama makes for good television, but White harassing Ferrier because she had an anxiety attack could lead to legal action under different circumstances.

Legal guidance often necessary

Those with questions regarding an employee’s drug use at sea (legal or otherwise) may wish to consult with a maritime law attorney. They can help employers or the employee better understand the issue and what the law says on this matter. Those who experience a similar situation can resolve the dispute either through a settlement or litigation.