AM. SAMOA MARINE DIVISION EMPLOYEES SUSPENDED

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Five workers tested positive in random drug check

By Rhonda Annesley PAGO PAGO, American Samoa, (Samoa News, May 2, 2011) – In American Samoa, five Port Administration Marine Division employees have tested positive in random drug tests conducted by Port Administration two weeks ago, while an additional five employees of the same division are reported to have declined to take the same drug test. Affected individuals are said to be suspended from Marine Division duties, and re-assigned to Port's Maintenance Division by the Port director.

According to a Port official, who wishes to remain anonymous, the tests were performed about two weeks ago, and Port Administration Director, Matagi Ray McMoore, at the MV Sili dock delivered the results of the tests on Tuesday to Marine Division employees as they were preparing for a vessel sail to Swains Islands.

The five Port employees who tested positive, were not allowed to make the sail, the Port Official told Samoa News Friday evening. It is not known if the five who declined to take the drug test were also stopped from making the trip. The MV Sili did leave as scheduled on Tuesday, returning on Friday afternoon - with a reported engine problem.

Two callers to Samoa News on Friday said the affected Port employees were suspended - those who failed the test and those who refused to take the test.

However, the Port official told Samoa News that the suspension was only from Marine Division duties, with these employees being re-assigned to Port's Maintenance Division. Samoa News could not confirm if this is the case for all ten affected employees, or only those who failed the drug test.

Samoa News contacted the Supervisor for the Coast Guard's American Samoa Marine Safety Detachment Unit; Lt. Trevor Parra about the drug tests, as the Friday callers told Samoa News the United States Coast Guard (USCG) America Samoa unit conducted them.

Lt. Parra in response to Samoa News inquiries explained that the "46 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 16 requires marine employers to mandate chemical test programs. These regulations apply to all inspected vessels and un-inspected vessels that operate on public waterways. All marine employers that operate or own vessels that are engaged in commercial activity and employ credentialed or non credentialed mariners have to comply with all parts of the regulations," he said.

Lt. Parra continued, "In this case, the American Samoa Government (ASG) Port Administration has a "marine division"; and the port is required to conduct "pre-employment testing, random testing and reasonable cause testing" at a certified Department of Transportation (DOT) facility for members of the marine division.

(Samoa News was unable to ascertain what "certified DOT facility" was used for the random testing of the Port employees.)

The USCG supervisor added that the marine employer (in this case, ASG Port Administration) is responsible and directs the testing for the employees at the port, and the Medical Review Officer and the company Drug and Alcohol Program Coordinator are responsible to review and take action if any tests are "positive".

A company that specializes in DOT drug testing, U.S. Norton medical Industries, states on its website that "employees who have violated the drug and alcohol testing rules must be removed from safety-sensitive duties immediately. These employees cannot return to safety-sensitive duty until they are referred for evaluation and have successfully complied with treatment recommendations."

Its website notes that "to seriously deter substance abuse among employees in the safety sensitive marine sector the DOT encourages employers to have strong drug and alcohol testing programs."

In his e-mail reply to Samoa News inquiries, Lt. Parra said, "the Coast Guard is responsible to ensure compliance with the regulations."

The number of persons tested is confidential information, he concluded.

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