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Denmark Files Manslaughter Charges Against Intoxicated Helmsman

manslaughter charges for helmsman involved in collision
Karin Hoj capsized and the Scot Carrier can be seen standing by in the background (Sjöräddningssällskapet photo)

Published Jun 7, 2022 1:39 PM by The Maritime Executive

The police in Copenhagen, Denmark announced that they have formally indicted the helmsman of the cargo ship Scot Carrier on charges of manslaughter resulting from the collision of his vessel with a Danish ship killing the two crewmembers aboard the smaller ship. 

The unidentified seafarer is a 30-year-old British citizen who was second officer of the Scot Carrier, a 3,450 gross ton general cargo carrier, and was on duty as the helmsman when it collided on December 13, 2021, with the smaller Danish vessel, a 180-foot self-sailing barge Karin Høj. He is being charged with negligent manslaughter with aggravating circumstances because in tests after the collision it was determined he was intoxicated with his blood alcohol level far above Scandinavia’s strict limits.

In addition to the manslaughter charges, they are also prosecuting him under the penal code for “sailing on” after the collision without stopping to provide assistance to the Karin Høj. Swedish and Danish authorities launched a search and rescue mission after the collision, which took place in a busy sea lane south of the Swedish town of Ystad and the Danish Island of Bornholm. The vessel overturned as a result of the collision. Rescue teams located the body of one of the two crew from the Danish vessel. They later salvaged the ship, but a second crewmember remains missing.

The first indication of the accident came when a Swedish monitoring station receive a signal from the EPIRB emergency beacon on the Danish vessel. They began investigating and contacted the Scot Carrier, which then returned to the scene of the collision. The vessel later docked in Sweden for the investigation. 

Swedish authorities initially detained both the second officer and chief officer from the Scot Carrier, but later released the chief officer. A Danish court ordered the helmsman held and he was extricated to Denmark in February 2022 to stand charges from the collision. He admitted negligence during the investigation but denied the aggravated circumstances or causing the collision.  

The arraignment took place on June 7 in Copenhagen City Court. The first hearing is scheduled for next week and a verdict expected by the end of the month.