The captain of a chemical tanker has lost his job after being found drunk aboard his vessel moments before it was due to leave Port Taranaki, New Zealand, carrying tonnes of methanol.
The master of the SG Pegasus, Saurabh Kumar Singh was waiting to be guided out of the harbour by a pilot when the pilot suspected Singh had been drinking, and phoned the local police and maritime authorities.
When officers arrived at the ship, Singh underwent an evidential breath test.
He returned a reading of 881 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath – the seafarer's legal limit is 250mcgs.
SG Pegasus, a Panama-registered oil and chemical tanker, was due to depart for Nelson with tonnes of methanol – but its journey was delayed until a replacement master could be put on board.
Under the NZ Maritime Transport Act, Singh was charged with exceeding the seafarer's legal alcohol limit to which he pleaded guilty in the New Plymouth District Court.
Singh told police "he had been having a bad day and realised he had made a mistake".
The prosecution has resulted in him immediately losing his job.
Judge Chris Sygrove said it was an unusual charge as the court usually dealt with defendants caught drunk and in charge of motor vehicles, not ships.
"But I'll deal with it in a similar way to which we'd deal with it if you had been driving a motorcar," he said.
While "probably more serious than that", Sygrove thought it was fair to impose a fine given Singh had already lost his job and still had a family to support.
He ordered Singh to pay NZ$1,000 plus court costs.
Outside of court, Maritime NZ's regional manager, Michael-Paul Abbott, said the sentence was a strong reminder and warning to seafarers.
"If you are over the alcohol limit, you will be prosecuted. Safety is paramount," he said.
Abbott said while extremely disappointed with this Master's actions, "we are pleased with the prompt actions of the pilots in bringing this to our attention, the police for their support, and the shipping company for reinforcing their no tolerance approach to alcohol on board the ship".