The Royal Canadian Navy has banned sailors from drinking alcohol at sea, with the exception of a few special occasions. The move comes after an investigation of an incident in July, when a warship had to be recalled from an exercise in the United States and return to port because members of the crew were inebriated.

Until now, sailors were allowed to drink while off duty. Under the new rules, they will only be able to have alcohol on special occasions, such as Christmas, with their captain’s permission. Vending machines that served beer will be removed from all ships. A server will be required to be on hand to dispense alcohol.

Navy commander Vice-Admiral Mark Norman said the new rules will help prevent misconduct caused by alcohol.

"Alcohol is always a factor that we cannot ignore, but this is not about alcohol," Norman told reporters. "This is about the conduct of our people and unfortunately alcohol does contribute to misconduct and has done in the past. And we just want to try and regulate that as best we can going forward."

The HMCS Whitehorse was recalled from an exercise in San Diego in July, after three sailors from the ship were found engaging in “sexual misconduct, shoplifting and drunkenness” while the ship was in port. That event, coupled with several other “questionable incidents,” according to Norman, triggered the navy’s reassessment of its alcohol policy.

Norman did not expect the ban to impact sailors’ morale, especially as other navies, including those of Britain, Australia and New Zealand have similar policies. In the United States, all Navy ships are dry.

"This is a very dangerous business and there's just no place for people having access to alcohol at sea," Norman said.