SHIPPING NEWS: Malta-flagged freighter captain admits high alcohol count

Federal prosecutors say the captain of a [224-metre]-long freighter was intoxicated as his ship was trying to cross the hazardous Columbia River bar near Astoria, Oregon.

The Coast Guard reported that Georgios Choulis was found sleeping on the Malta-flagged ship Laconia with an almost empty bottle of Scotch whisky beside him.

US Attorney Amanda Marshall said that Choulis had a blood-alcohol level of 0.287. Federal law prohibits the operation of commercial vessels with a blood-alcohol content over 0.04.

The Coast Guard removed Choulis from the Laconia on Tuesday. A river bar pilot and a Coast Guard team had boarded the vessel to assist in its transit from the Pacific Ocean into the Columbia River.

On Friday, in Portland, Choulis pleaded guilty on Friday to operating a commercial vessel under the influence of alcohol. US District Judge Marco Hernandez sentenced him to a year’s probation and a $500 fine, and barred him from US waters for a year. The local press reported that he was expected to fly back to his native Greece.

The Coast Guard has released the freighter to pick up a load of grain from Longview, Washington.


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