Master Charged with Operating Ship While Intoxicated

Monday, November 08, 2004
The Greek master of a commercial ship pleaded guilty and was charged Thursday with operating his vessel while intoxicated.

Nikolaos Zografos was charged before a U.S. magistrate judge with being drunk while aboard the 580-foot freight ship Winner at St. John's Buoys, near Reserve, La. Zografos pleaded guilty to the charge and was sentenced to one-year probation, restriction from being a master or licensed officer on any vessel in U.S. waters for the duration of his probation and received a $5,500 fine.

On Oct. 28, contract workers cleaning cargo holds aboard Winner informed the Coast Guard that the master appeared intoxicated. Lt. Boris Towns and Petty Officers 1st Class Kevin Armbruster and Ole Expose of Coast Guard Marine Safety Office New Orleans boarded the vessel and observed indications that the master was operating under the influence of alcohol. Towns administered breathalyzer tests that confirmed Zografos was intoxicated.

Special agents from Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) Gulf Region in New Orleans obtained a warrant and effected the arrest of Zografos, who was transported to a federal holding facility.

"This case should send a clear message to all mariners operating in U.S. waters that operating any vessel under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a serious threat to the safety of other mariners, the general public, and maritime commerce and transportation," said Special Agent-in-Charge Donald G. Lane, CGIS Gulf Region. "Such behavior will not be tolerated and violations will be enforced to the fullest extent by the U.S. Coast Guard."

"I am very pleased with the outcome of this case," said Capt. Frank Paskewich, commanding officer and captain of the port New Orleans. "How a licensed master, a professional mariner, could allow himself to become intoxicated while in a position where he is solely responsible for the safety of a large commercial vessel and the crew onboard that vessel is inconceivable to me. I would like to personally thank the contract workers for reporting this situation to Marine Safety Office New Orleans and for the quick actions of the agents at CGIS Gulf Region and the U.S. attorney to bring this case to a quick conclusion."

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