Norwegian police are cracking down on pleasure boat skippers who join their passengers in enjoying a beer or a glass of wine on the water. If they’re caught with blood alcohol levels above the legal limit, they’ll lose their boating license for up to two years.
Norway has long upheld strict regulations against drinking and driving, which can result in automatic jail terms, huge fines and the loss of the driver’s license. Now police are extending the lack of tolerance for drinking and driving to drinking and boating, just as the summer boating season gets underway.
“The changes will come as a surprise to many who want to have a beer on the fjord,” Kjetil Olsen of the Harbour Police in Oslo told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Tuesday.
Olsen said harbour patrols will be stepping up their random checks on the fjord. Most skippers caught boating and drinking have received fines of around NOK 10,000 (USD 1,800). Now they’ll also lose their boat license for one or two years.
The blood-alcohol limit while operating a boat is now 0.8. In cases of serious intoxication well over the 0.8 limit, police can also pull the defendant’s license for up to five years.
Olsen said many of the roughly 200 boat skippers caught drinking last year were over the limit, sometimes registering 2.0 after testing. “It’s typical that they fall asleep at the helm and their boat runs around in circles on the the fjord, or crashes into a buoy or pier.”
The Royal Norwegian Boat Federation (Kongelig Norsk Båtforbund) organizes 30,000 boat owners in Norway and thinks the tougher rules are just fine. So does the search and rescue unit Redningsselskapet. “If you’re operating a boat, your should be sober,” Ingvar Johnsen of Redningsselskapet told NRK.
New rules requiring boat licenses took effect last year. Everyone born in or after 1980 must take a boat license exam if they want to operate boats over eight meters long (26 foot) or if the boat has a motor stronger than 25 horsepower. The license authorizes operation of boats up to 49 foot.
Those over age 16 can operate a boat without a license if it’s under 26 foot. Those under age 16 can still operate pleasure craft if they are under 26 foot and can’t go faster than 10 knots.
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