U.S. Coast Guard officials took the captain of a Maltese freighter into custody in Astoria Tuesday.
The captain of the 738-foot bulk carrier Laconia was taken into custody after his blood-alcohol level was found to be in excess of the legal limit for commercial vessel operators.
A Coast Guard Vessel Boarding and Safety Team from Sector Columbia River in Warrenton boarded the vessel and immediately received a report from Customs and Border Protection agents already aboard the vessel for an inspection. The customs members suspected the man was intoxicated based on their observations while aboard, including open containers of alcohol in the captains stateroom.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Nate Littlejohn said the boarding happened while the vessel was anchored near Astoria.
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 by the Coast Guard boarding team and handed over to Coast Guard Investigative Service officials. The man will be transported to the federal detention center in Portland today.
This is not a common occurrence, said Littlejohn. A commercial vessel operator has everything to lose by operating under the influence.
The case is being handled by Coast Guard District 13 and the U.S. Attorneys Office. The Coast Guard has ordered Laconia to acquire a replacement captain prior to departure from the Astoria anchorage.
The coordinated and complimentary efforts of both the Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection agents in Astoria proved effective once again in identifying and removing threats to safety and security in our waters, said Capt. Bruce Jones, commander of Sector Columbia River. The information gathered and shared during both agencies boardings today was critical in detaining this foreign vessels master before it proceeded further up the Columbia River.
More details will become available as the case progresses.