Skip to Content

Drug Testing for the United States Coast Guard

US Coast Guard boat on the water Now Providing eCCF Paperless Drug Testing

Are you regulated by the United States Coast Guard? Are you applying for or renewing a Captains License? If yes, you need drug testing.

Immediate service is available at our drug testing centers, over 10,000 throughout the United States. For Coast Guard regulated employers, National Drug Screening offers complete programs for compliance with Coast Guard regulations for drug and alcohol testing. For Captains license we can arrange your test and get it completed with the required Coast Guard CG-719P form. This CG-719P form can be required for Periodic Drug Testing.

For immediate testing, call National Drug Screening. We have testing centers open daily in all areas of the United States.

Coast Guard Drug Testing in Compliance with Title 46 CFR Parts 4 and 16

  • Testing conducted under these regulations is limited to five dangerous drugs (marijuana, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, and phencyclidine (PCP)) and alcohol.
  • Urine samples for drug testing must be analyzed at Health and Human Services (HHS) certified labs in accordance with DOT procedures contained in 49 CFR 40.
  • Testing for drugs is conducted through urine samples, while testing for alcohol in the marine industry may be conducted using breath or blood. DOT 49 CFR 40 procedures must be followed.
  • The marine employer must establish an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). This EAP must include education and training.
  • Marine employers must make a written report to the Coast Guard of all positive drug tests resulting from any required testing of any individual who has a license, COR, or MMD issued by the Coast Guard.
  • Marine employers face serious consequences for positive drug or alcohol tests – More Information >>>.

Required Testing:

  • Pre-employment: A crewmember must pass a drug test before an employer may employ him/her. A prospective crewmember who submits a urine sample cannot be employed until a negative test result is confirmed.
  • Periodic: Periodic tests are the responsibility of the individual mariner, not the marine employer, for transactions involving licenses, CORs, or MMDs. Drug test results must be submitted to the Coast Guard Regional Exam Center at the time of the license, COR, or MMD transaction.
  • Random: An employer must conduct random drug testing of certain crewmembers at an annual rate of not less than 25%.
  • Reasonable cause: An employer shall require any crewmember who is reasonably suspected of using drugs to be tested for drugs and/or alcohol.
  • Post-accident: A person (not necessarily a crewmember) who is directly involved in a serious marine incident must be tested for drugs and alcohol. Post-accident testing applies to all serious marine incidents involving commercial vessels regardless of flag of origin. More specifically, this includes crewmembers aboard foreign flag vessels who are directly involved in serious marine incidents occurring in U.S. waters.
US Coast Guard in a boat harbor with other ships

What Coast Guard Employees May be Subject to Testing?

Crew members performing safety sensitive duties must be in the drug and alcohol drug testing program. Safety sensitive duties include but are not limited to;

  • Directing and mustering passengers in emergencies
  • Passing out lifejackets
  • Controlling and operating lifesaving equipment
  • Controlling and operating firefighting equipment

Safety Sensitive Position: Is any position (billet) aboard a vessel, that requires the person filling that position to perform one or more safety sensitive duties or operation of a vessel on either a routine or emergency only basis. Examples of this type of crewmember may include card dealers, bartenders, game operators and service personnel aboard excursion or gaming vessels. Any person filling a safety sensitive position is subject to U.S. Coast Guard drug and alcohol testing. All crewmembers, that are responsible for the safe handling of passengers, are considered to be filling safety sensitive positions as well.

Medical Review Officer (MRO) Required for Coast Guard Drug Testing

The MRO is another entity required for the drug test program. The MRO is the recipient of the drug test results that are reported from the laboratory. The MRO being the recipient of the test results from the laboratory has many responsibilities, some of which are:

  • Verifying that the test result is accurate;
  • Ensuring that the test result is correct and not flawed because of chain-of custody or any other administrative errors;
  • Verifying that all positive drug test results are the result of illegal use of a controlled substance;
  • Reviewing all test results that are substituted or are adulterated; and
  • Conducting an interview of the specimen donor prior to reporting out any drug test result that is a non-negative test result.

As can be seen in the above, there is a great deal of responsibility for the MRO. It is extremely important for the marine employer to select the MRO who will be doing MRO services with care. The MRO is who will be reporting verified drug test results to the marine employer.

The requirement is for MROs to be qualified in accordance with 49 CFR part 40. Once a licensed physician or D.O. is DOT qualified, they are eligible to legitimately receive DOT drug tests from a SAMHSA accredited lab. There is a continuing education course requirement for the MRO to maintain DOT qualification.

Additionally, it is advisable to let the MRO who you select know that you are a marine employer and ask if he/she is aware of the Coast Guard Return-To-Duty requirements and the role that the MRO plays in returning a mariner who has a non-negative test result returning back to work. If the MRO is not familiar with these unique Coast Guard requirements, it could prove to be a problem in the future. On occasion, MROs are reluctant to have marine employers as clients because of the unique return to work requirements.

Ten Steps to Compliance for USCG Regulated Employers

If your business is regulated by the United States Coast Guard and you have safety sensitive employees, you are required to have a drug and alcohol testing program. National Drug Screening can help you with the 10 steps to Compliance for USCG Regulated Employers.

Call Now for Immediate Service – Turnkey Program

  1. Drug and Alcohol Policy
    The U.S. Coast Guard’s chemical testing regulations mandate that Vessel Operators develop and implement a written drug and alcohol testing policy. The policy must be signed by the Vessel Operator and posted in a conspicuous area on board the vessel (USCG regulation 46 CFR Section 16.401)
  2. Reports and Recordkeeping (MIS)
    All marine employers must collect drug and alcohol testing data and submit this data to the U.S. Coast Guard by March 15 of the following year. USAMDT maintains the statistical records and submits the annual MIS reports to the USCG on behalf of each member (USCG regulation 46 CFR Section 16.500).
  3. Employee Assistance Program [EAP]
    Vessel Operators must have a written employee assistance program (EAP), and must conduct one hour of drug and alcohol awareness training. The written EAP program is a part of the substance Abuse Policy and USAMDT can provide both required employee education and supervisor training programs for crewmembers and Vessel Supervisors to satisfy this regulatory provision (USCG regulation 46 CFR Section 16.401).
  4. Pre-Employment Drug Testing
    No USAMDT client shall engage or employ any individual to serve as a crewmember unless the individual passes a chemical test for dangerous drugs. All applicants must be tested for drugs before they join the USAMDT Consortium, unless they submit proof of having passed a periodic or pre-employment drug test within the past six months, or unless they were subject to random testing for the past 60 days in the previous 185 days (USCG regulation 46 CFR Section 16.210).
  5. Serious Marine Incident Drug Testing
    All crewmembers must be tested for drugs and alcohol following a "serious marine incident", as defined by the U.S. Coast Guard. Alcohol testing must be completed within 2 hours and drug testing must be completed within 32 hours following a serious marine incident (USCG regulation 46 CFR Subpart 4.06). DOT approved instant alcohol test kits should be available on all vessels.
  6. Reasonable Cause Drug Testing
    The marine employer must require any crewmember who is reasonably suspected of using dangerous drugs to be chemically tested. The marine employer’s decision to test must be based on a reasonable and articulable belief that the individual has used dangerous drugs based on direct observation of specific, contemporaneous physical, behavioral or performance indicators of probable use (USCG regulation 46 CFR Section 16.250).
  7. Periodic Drug Testing
    An applicant for a license or merchant mariner’s document shall be required to pass a chemical test for dangerous drugs. The applicant shall provide the results of the test to the U.S. Coast Guard Regional Examination Center (REC) at the time of submitting an application (USCG regulation 46 CFR Section 16.220). Form CG-719P is available from USAMDT and must be completed as part of the drug testing process.
  8. Random Drug Testing
    The selection of crewmembers for random drug testing will be made by a scientifically valid method. Under the testing frequency and selection process, each covered crewmember will have an equal chance of being selected and tested each time selections are made, and a crewmember’s chance of selection will continue to exist throughout his or her employment. The minimum annual percentage rate of random drug testing shall be 50% of covered crewmembers. The USAMDT random selection program complies with this regulatory provision (USCG regulation 46 CFR Section 16.230).
  9. Crewmember Background Checks
    Marine employers must conduct background checks which involves acquiring drug and alcohol testing information on each applicant for employment (USCG regulation 49 CFR Section 40.25). DOT Previous Employer Request form is available from USAMDT.
  10. Refusals and Positive Tests
    Follow the three R’s of a Positive Test.

The Three R’s of a Refusal or Positive Test


Any crewmember that fails any required drug test must immediately be removed from duties that directly affect the safe operation of the vessel (or denied employment in the case of a pre-employment test). This requirement applies to all persons who fail drug tests, whether or not they hold a license, COR, or MMD.


Marine employers must make a written report to the Coast Guard of all positive drug tests resulting from any required testing of an individual who has a license, COR, or MMD issued by the Coast Guard.

Positive test results must be reported both for present and prospective employees. The marine employer must make this report whether or not the individual was hired and regardless if the position required a license, COR, or MMD is required. As long as the person has credentials issued by the Coast Guard, a report must be made to the Coast Guard.

Marine employers are not required to report positive pre-employment drug test results to the Coast Guard for persons who do not have licenses, CORs, or MMDs. However, these individuals may not be employed. All drug and alcohol test results must be reported following a serious marine incident, regardless of citizenship or whether or not the persons tested hold Coast Guard papers.

Review Options

Anyone who has tested positive for use of a dangerous drug must obtain a "drug-free" letter from an MRO, as per 46 CFR 16.370, prior to being allowed to return to work in any safety related position. This includes the mariner who does not hold a license, MMD, or COR.

There are several options available, none of which are a ‘quick fix’. A common misconception is that by providing a subsequent drug test result, which is negative, the matter of the positive test will end. This is not true. The Coast Guard will continue to prosecute the positive test result regardless of any negative test taken thereafter.

Licensed individuals may "Voluntarily Deposit" their license or document with the Coast Guard to show good faith that they are going to correct the situation in the minimal time. This deposit does not exempt the mariner from any proceedings, but it gets the process started and shows good faith.

Mariners may opt to go to a Suspension and Revocation (S&R) hearing in front of a federal Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The hearing is administrative in nature and concerns only the mariner’s right to continued use of a Coast Guard issued license, MMD, or COR. It will not result in fines or imprisonment. It is the mariner’s burden to provide proof that will negate the test results. The Coast Guard will recommend and seek revocation as per Title 46 United States Code (USC), Article 7704.

The mariner may surrender their license/document. They will be eligible to reapply for their license under "Administrative Clemency". Normally this is three years after the license or document is surrendered.

The last option is to enter into "Joint Motion", where you agree with the Coast Guard to undergo counseling, rehabilitation (as deemed necessary by medical authority), and accelerated testing for a period of 12 months. There will be no exceptions to these requirements.