What to do with a drunken sailor? Restrict booze at sea; raise prices in port

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Booze will not be as cheap or flow as freely aboard Canadian warships after the review of an incident last summer in which a coastal defense vessel was ordered home from a U.S. exercise because of its sailors' bad behavior.

The report, released Friday by the fleet's top commander, recommends that the navy develop a strictly enforced code of conduct in addition to increasing the shipboard price of alcohol and banning any consumption while ships are at sea, unless there are special events. The restrictions were imposed immediately.

Last July, HMCS Whitehorse cut short its deployment and returned to its home port in Esquimalt, British Columbia, after some crew members were accused of sexual misconduct, shoplifting and drunkenness. Three incidents are in various stages of being dealt with through the military justice system, including a planned court martial of the sailor accused of sexual assault.

Vice Admiral Mark Norman agreed with the recommendations, saying the actions of sailors, at home and abroad, reflect on the navy and the nation as a whole. Unlike their U.S. counterparts who serve on completely dry ships, off-duty Canadian sailors have been free to purchase beer or wine, including from soda machine-style dispensers.

Those are being removed as part of the reforms, which Norman acknowledged might not be popular, but necessary.

"I have no doubt there will be some folks who see this as negative, but I have great confidence based on broad consultations through all ranks of the navy that this will be seen as a positive, measured and progressive step," he said.

The alternative, Norman said, was to go the U.S. route and ban booze entirely.