Mystery boat at City Front is mobile drug-screening machine

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 27, 2009

Docked at City Front, a few yards from the Sweet Olive river tour boat, is a red-and-white boat lined with black rubber tires and branded with the name Capt. Jim Weeks.

The boat, a mystery to some, is used for Phillip Wolfe’s Tri-W Drug Screening, a drug testing service for vessels passing through Vicksburg.

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Department of Transportation regulations call for companies to perform random drug tests on at least 50 percent of their employees and random alcohol tests on at least 10 percent. Boats are often forced to send those employees on shore to a hospital or clinic to get that testing, but services such as Tri-W pull up to the boats, mid-river, bringing the testing to them.

Tri-W has been in business for less than a year.

“You can go to a clinic (or) a hospital and wait around for a couple hours, or you can call us and we can be there for 10 minutes and be off in five more,” Wolfe said.

Tri-W takes the boat out to the ship at no cost, and charges “bare minimum” for the testing, Wolfe said.

“Companies are just starting to catch on to just how much money we could save them,” he added

After a company calls to request testing, the Tri-W boat pulls up to the ship, comes on board and conducts the tests. Wolfe and his eight employees test the samples on site or in any private space available.

Sometimes, even the captain doesn’t know when a company has called Tri-W until he or she sees the boat “coming with the black bags” that hold the testing kits, Wolfe said.

“We like sneaking in on people,” he said.

Wolfe estimates Tri-W does drug screenings on three to four boats a week, including once for Vicksburg’s Golding Barge Line Inc. Tri-W has alcohol tests and can test for as many as nine different drug categories — though the standard five-panel test checks for amphetamines, cannabinoids (marijuana and THC), cocaine, opiates and phencyclidine (PCP) — in hair, urine, sweat or saliva.

“If you can leak it, I can test it,” Wolfe said.