Freighter captain pleads guilty to alcohol count

Mar 3, 2012, 8:20 AM

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – Federal prosecutors say the captain of a 736-foot-long freighter was intoxicated as his ship was trying to cross the hazardous Columbia River bar near Astoria, Ore.

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

U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall says Choulis had a blood-alcohol level of .287. Federal law prohibits operation of commercial vessels with a blood-alcohol content over .04.

The Coast Guard removed him 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.

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

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

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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Freighter captain pleads guilty to alcohol count