There are many ways that accidents can happen in the maritime industry, and one that happens more often than those in the industry would like to admit is the operation of ships while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. There are many examples of this happening, some with near misses and others with tragic consequences. Most recently, the captain of a Russian vessel nearly missed a collision while drunk and operating a cargo ship and has now been sentenced to four months in jail.
Alcohol Use Leads to Near Ship Collision
The incident in question occurred on November 8, just outside of the port at Barrow-in-Furness in the UK. In the early afternoon the Brin-Navolok, a Russian cargo ship, nearly struck another vessel in the area. The disaster was averted by a local pilot who used ordered a tugboat to push the Russian ship into port.
The cargo ship was under the control of Russian captain Alexander Tipisov. At the time of the incident, the Barrow pilot, Charles Simcox, was on the bridge of the ship, directing the captain and advising him on how best to leave the port. The pilot noted that the captain was not alert, that he did not seem to listen to his instructions, and that he seemed disheveled.
Tipisov took control of the ship from the pilot and began maneuvering it in a way that was dangerous, taking steps that contradicted the advice of the pilot. Simcox then called to the port for a tugboat and to have the police alerted. The tug pushed the ship back into harbor after it narrowly missed colliding with another vessel. The police were waiting in the harbor, breathalyzed Tipisov, and measured his blood alcohol content at more than twice the legal limit.
Sentencing for Alcohol Use While Captaining a Vessel
Tipisov was sentenced just a few days later for operating a vessel while under the influence of alcohol. He explained at the time that he had been drinking vodka on the ship in celebration of the first birthday of a grandchild. For pleading guilty and for not having prior incidents like this, Tipisov received a sentence well below the maximum of two years. He will spend four months in a British prison.
The Dangers of Alcohol and Shipping
There are many dangers in the shipping industry, and they put crew members at risk as well as anyone nearby or on other ships. Too often, such as was the case with Tipisov, the dangers are risks that could and should have been avoided. The act of drinking while operating a vessel of any kind, but especially a large one in the vicinity of a busy harbor, can cause serious damage, injury, and even death.
In 2015, another Russian sailor got into trouble drinking while operating a vessel. This time, though the results were more damaging. He ran a large cargo ship into the rocky coast of Scotland, causing a massive oil spill and enough damage to the ship that it had to be scrapped. Destroying a large freighter is just one consequence of operating ships while drunk. People can be injured in these crashes and even killed. Both crew members, and bystanders in ports and on docks are at risk when a ship operated by someone under the influence collides, runs aground, or strikes an object.