Freighter runs aground after captain pleads to drunk boating

Freighter runs aground after captain pleads to drunk boating
Valeriy Sharykin

PORTLAND, Ore. - The Russian captain of a Maltese freighter pleaded guilty to operating a commercial vessel under the influence of alcohol Tuesday but was not on board when the 24,000 ton boat, two football fields long, broke free of its mooring in the afternoon and ran aground 1 1/2 miles later down the Willamette River, according to published reports.

Valeriy Sharykin, 62, a Russian citizen, is captain of a Maltese freighter Alfines East, federal prosecutors said.

While conducting an official inspection of the vessel on April 8, 2013, Coast Guard Port State Control examiners from Marine Safety Unit Portland suspected the captain was intoxicated based on their observations of his behavior and smell.

Coast Guard law enforcement personnel from Station Portland and Coast Guard Investigative Service responded, used a breathalyzer and took Sharykin into custody with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) that was over four times the legal limit, federal prosecutors said.

He pleaded guilty the next day.

“Operating a 24,000 ton, 602 foot ship with a blood alcohol level more than four times above the limit is beyond reckless, it’s potentially deadly," U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall said. "The safety of people, property, and the environment on the Columbia River and all US waterways is a top priority for this office. Those who endanger safety in commercial shipping and maritime will be found and prosecuted. I want to thank the Coast Guard for their prompt and professional investigation of this matter bringing this defendant to justice.”

"The Columbia River is a vital transportation mode, source of economic prosperity for the entire Pacific Northwest and an environmental treasure which the Coast Guard is committed to protecting," said Capt. Bruce Jones, Sector Columbia River Commander. "We will remain vigilant in ensuring those who operate vessels in our waters do so responsibly and in compliance with safety, security and environmental laws. I commend our young but very competent and dedicated Petty Officers for their diligence and thoroughness in the examination of the Adfines East which led to today's arrest."

The judge put Sharykin on two years probation, including a condition that the defendant is prohibited from sailing, in any capacity, waters subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. Defendant also agreed to pay a $1,000 fine to the court and $1,000 to a community alcohol treatment facility.