The captain of a Malta-flagged cargo ship was charged with negligent operation of a vessel last week, after he was found operating a vessel with several times above the allowed limit of alcohol in his system.

The captain of the MV Laconia was arrested after the Coast Guard inspected the vessel, and found him under the influence of alcohol. Earlier, a team of the Columbia River Bar Pilots boarded the vessel in order to guide it to the Port of Longview. When the pilot asked for the master of the ship, he was informed that the captain was indisposed. A few hours later, a Coast Guard boarding and security team checked into the ship and asked to see the captain. They found him lying in a berth, with an almost-empty bottle of Scotch whiskey right next to him. When the team attempted to rouse the captain from his state of intoxication, he became verbally abusive. According to the team, he showed visible signs of intoxication, including watery and red eyes, and reeked of alcohol.

He agreed to take a breathalyzer test, and when the test was administered, it was found that his reading was about .278. That is seven times the legally allowed limit of .08%. He was arrested, and charged with negligent operation of a commercial vessel. A US District Court judge has sentenced him to one year probation, and a $500 fine. He is also required to stay off US waters for at least a year.

Intoxicated driving can be just as dangerous on sea as on land. There have been a string of maritime accidents recently involving crewmembers and captains who were found to be less than 100% sober at the wheel. The maritime lawyers at Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers represent crewmembers, who have been injured in accidents caused by incompetent crewmembers or captains.