Ferry operator revises alcohol policies after booze-related death

The death of a young Norwegian man in April will have serious consequences for the prevailing drinking culture onboard the ferries

Fjord Line has moved to curb the drinking culture on its ferries after a young man died of alcohol poisoning while he was being held in detention on one of its vessels in April.

The Norwegian ferry line, which operates between Denmark and Norway, has decided to make drastic changes to its onboard drinking policies, including forbidding the consumption of alcoholic drinks that have been purchased on land or in the tax-free shop.

Only alcoholic drinks purchased over the counter on the boat will be permitted in the future, according to Ingvald Fardal, the head of Fjord Line.

“The new policy has been decided due to people bringing alcohol onboard and consuming it in their cabins," Fardal told Norwegian broadcaster NRK. "We have not been able to control how much people have consumed, and in the future, we want to implement some limitations. Alcohol will be enjoyed in onboard restaurants and pubs and not behind closed doors.”

The changes follow the April death of Reidar Midtøy, a 20-year-old Norwegian, onboard the Bergensfjord while on his way back to Norway from Hirtshals in Jutland. Attempts to resuscitate him were in vain.

Fjord Line, which operates ferries along routes from Bergen, Stavanger and Kristiansand to Hirtshals in Denmark, noted it will also be improving its security and the supervision of detained passengers to avoid future tragedies at sea.

According to Bergen Avisen newspaper, the Bergensfjord didn’t have a doctor or a policeman onboard when Midtøy died in the holding cell with a blood alcohol percentage almost nine times over the drink-driving limit.  

This was the cell that 20-year-old Reidar Midtøy died of alcohol poisoning in aboard the Bergensfjord (Photo: Fjord Line)According to Bergen Avisen, the Bergensfjord uses its holding cell once a week on average, and Fjord Line sails in accordance with the Danish seafaring law.

“There are no specific Danish conditions in place concerning onboard arrests, and the arrest procedure is in accordance with the company's own procedures and guidelines,” Søren Bach, a deputy police commissioner from Hjørring, told Bergen Avisen. “The maritime accident commision has registered the case but will not take further action.”

Fardal argued that the new policy will not have consequences for the majority of the ferry customers since it is only a few individual cases that have sparked the change. If the crew discovers people drinking in their cabins, they will confiscate the alcohol.

Initially, the drinking ban in cabins will take place onboard the Bergensfjord, while two other ships that sail between Denmark and Norway will also be affected – one on July 14 and the other in six months time.

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