Tougher boating rules set to discourage boozing

Drunken sailors in Switzerland who take the helm will soon fall foul of the same anti-alcohol rules as their counterparts on land, the country's transport authorities announced on Tuesday.

Tougher boating rules set to discourage boozing
Lake Murten, site of a weekend boating accident, reportedly involving alcohol. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

From January 1st, 2014, anyone piloting a boat on a Swiss river or lake will be required to respect a limit of 0.5 grammes of alcohol per litre of blood, the Federal Office of Transport said.
 "This ruling concerns amateur boating and water sports," a spokeswoman for the office told AFP.

"The limit for professional navigators is already set at 0.1," she added, noting that a similar limit applies to transport sector employees such as train drivers.

While the decision by the Swiss government to apply the same 0.5 limit to road and water users was already in the pipeline, the issue of drunken helmsmen has been in the headlines this week.

On Sunday, a 58-year old Neuchâtel woman was seriously injured after falling from the bow of a boat in Lake Murten when the pilot swerved the vessel.

The pilot had consumed alcohol but was credited with pulling the injured passenger from the water, local radio station RTN reported on Tuesday.

The victim is in stable condition in a Bern hospital.

According to the new rules, every sailor who fails a police test will be fined, while anyone with a blood-alcohol level of over 0.8 grammes will lose their boating license.

The new rule will replace the only requirement for sailors currently in place, which is to have the control of their vessel.

This decision has failed to win unanimous support among sailors, who have questioned the relevance and the conditions of implementation.

On the website of Swiss newspaper 24 Heures, one user wondered tongue-in-cheek what a sailor would do if he lost his licence on the spot, saying: "Does he act like a car driver? Does he leave his boat and walk back home?"

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Switzerland scraps blood alcohol limits for rubber boat captains

In good news for weekend sailors, Switzerland is to get rid of blood-alcohol limits for users of vessels including small, non-motorized rubber boats and kiteboards.

Switzerland scraps blood alcohol limits for rubber boat captains
Boating on the Aare River is a popular summer activity in the Swiss capital of Bern. Photo:

The changes have been made because it is “too difficult” to test the blood alcohol limit of people operating these types of vessels and because these non-motorized craft pose only a minimal risk, the government said in a statement.

However, before you get completely intoxicated when taking your rubber boat onto the nearest Swiss river, the government also sounds a note of warning. Under the new rules, all operators of such small craft will still have to be fit to drive.

This fitness to drive could be assessed during random controls.

Read also: Watch – US tourist's harrowing hang glider flight in Switzerland

The rule changes, which were first touted last year, apply to boats with motors up to 2.5 metres in length and to non-motorized rubber boats up to four metres in length. Also exempt from alcohol limits are windsurfers and kiteboarders, along with canoeists and kayakers.

The operators of all other pleasure craft will be liable to the same blood alcohol limit of 0.05 percent. This is also the limit on Swiss roads.

The changes come into force in 2020.

Read also: Switzerland introduces tougher safety rules for high-risk sports