Drunk Freighter Captain Arrested on Columbia River [UPDATE]

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 6
March 5, 2012
M/V Laconia. Photo (c) Clark Crawford via MarineTraffic.com

Update: The captain of the Maltese-flagged M/V Laconia that was arrested last week after failing a breathalyzer test was not just slightly drunk, he was extremely wasted, according to a report posted to OregonLive.com.

Georgios Choulis, the 53-year-old master of the M/V Laconia, pleaded guilty Friday to negligent operation of a commercial vessel after registering an astonishing .278 blood alcohol level.

A member of the Columbia River Bar Pilots boarded the Laconia last Tuesday as the vessel waited to enter Port of Longview. The pilot asked for the ship’s master and learned he was sick.  Notifying a U.S. Coast Guard boarding and security team, Choulis was eventually found sleeping in a berth with a nearly empty fifth of Johnnie Walker Red Label.

U.S. District Judge Marco A. Hernandez  in Portland sentenced Choulis to a year of probation, a year off U.S. waters and a $500 fine.

From Tuesday, Feb. 28: The USCG arrested the drunk captain of a Maltese-flagged freighter while on the Columbia River near Astoria, Oregon on Tuesday.

According to the USCG report, the captain of the 738-foot M/V Laconia was taken into custody by a Coast Guard Boarding and Safety Team from Astoria after his blood-alcohol level was found to be in excess of the legal limit for commercial vessel operators.

The Coast Guard says that they were tipped off by Customs and Border Protection agents who boarded the vessel for a routine customs inspection and suspected the man had been drinking after finding open containers of alcohol in the Captain’s stateroom.

The Coast Guard boarding team conducted alcohol tests on the Captain while the Laconia remained anchored at the Astoria anchorage.  As a result of the breathalyzer test, the man was removed from the vessel and handed over to Coast Guard Investigative Service officials.  The man will be transported to the federal detention center in Portland, Ore., Wednesday.

The Laconia will have to find a replacement captain prior to departure from the Astoria anchorage.  The vessel is destined for Kalama, WA according to data from Marine Traffic.

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