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General: Drunk ship crash captain jailed

Posted on 07.11.2007 - 10:00 EST in GENERAL NEWS by Rons_ROV_Links

Drunk ship crash captain jailedA sea captain has been jailed for a year after crashing his ship into an unmanned gas platform while drunk, causing up to £10m damage.

Zbigniew Krakowski, 56, from Poland, was nearly three times over the legal alcohol limit when the Jork hit the Viking Echo platform off Norfolk on 4 August.

He pleaded guilty, at Lincoln Crown Court, to being drunk in charge of a cargo vessel.

Krakowski and six crew members were rescued from the sea.

The 2,000-tonne ship was carrying grain from Lubeck in Germany destined for the port of New Holland, Lincolnshire, when it crashed 40 miles (64km) off the coast.

More vodka

After the accident, which caused between £7m and £10m worth of damage, he opened a bottle of vodka, often reserved for tipping workers unloading the ship, the court was told.

Krakowski was sitting with his back to the ship's bow looking at a computer when the accident happened.

After taking control from his chief officer, he had been told to alter its course seven degrees.

But, the court was told, he did not make the correct alteration, and the ship continued towards the gas rig, with the captain - a seaman with more than 30 years' experience - looking over his shoulder at intervals.

Judge John Milmo was told that Krakowski only realised the impending danger when the vessel was about 100m to 150m from the rig. He tried to alter its course, but it hit the rig with a glancing blow.

Platform closed

The Jork continued another 500 metres before it stopped and started listing. It sank a day later.

The platform remains out of operation, losing £615,000 a month in revenue. Work cannot start on repairs until next April at the earliest, the court heard.

Krakowski's conviction comes after a joint investigation by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the Health and Safety Executive, Lincolnshire Police and Norfolk Constabulary.

It is believed the vessel eventually sank after the wheat in its cargo holds expanded when the sea water entered through the damaged hull.

© 2007 - BBC NEWS

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