In the Media

Drunken Eastern European sea captains endanger waters, judge warns

PUBLISHED October 16, 2012

Judge Michael Mettyear said a message needed to go out to all captains the behaviour of Viatcheslav Poleshchuk, 44, who downed a bottle of vodka before trying to set sail meant prison in UK courts.

Poleshchuk twice rammed lock gates with his 30,000 tonne ship at Goole and even asked police: "Can I have another go?"

The captain had more than four-times over the drink drive limit. He had 157 milligrams of alcohol in breath when the legal limit is 35.

Judge Michael Mettyear who initially jailed Poleshchuk for a week at Hull Crown Court said: "I am not saying for a moment all East European captains are guilty of this, but all the case law of drunken sea captains provided by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency enforcement unit feature Eastern European captains.

"This was really disgraceful conduct to be four and a half times over the legal limit in charge of a massive boat. I accept there was no immediate danger, but there others on board.

"When someone drinks like you did on board, anything could happen. You were fully aware of what condition you were in. It is not an excuse to say your sailing time had been brought forward.

"You could have put some else in charge or said you were not fit and delayed your sailing.

"You said: "Can I have another go? It really does seem to me a person as drunk as you must expect a custodial sentence. The courts must send out a clear message that a custodial sentence is inevitable."

Unsteady on his feet, he twice steered a collision course with his 100-metre-long ship loaded with scrap aluminum.

Poleshchuk was heading for the Humber with his 100-metre-long ship loaded with scrap aluminum before he was stopped and arrested.

A Goole-dock boat handler was on board the bridge when Poleshchuk was trying to make his exit. He became worried when he saw the captain's eyes were glazed and smelt alcohol.

He tried to warn him after the first crash but was ignored. The court heard it was not unusual for ships to hit the lock gates, the HMS Bell is 100m-long and the lock is 105meters, but it was unusual to hit them so forcefully and cause concern.

Defending barrister Paul Norton said Poleshchuk, a father-of-two of Rostov had lost his job and spent a week in prison after pleading guilty to a charge being in charge of a ship while over the legal limit.

"The week in prison has been a massive fall from grace bearing in mind a few weeks ago he was the master of his own ship," said Mr Norton. He said his family was wiring £5,000 from Russia to pay a fine.

Judge Mettyear jailed Poleshchuk for 28 days and ordered he should pay a £1,000 fine, and £250 costs. If the wire transfer does not arrive he will have to serve a further 28 days in prison.