MSC Captain Pleads Guilty to Being Drunk as Ship Arrives in UK

Felixstowe port UK
Pilot in Felixstowe boarding an arriving MSC containership suspected the captain was drunk and reported it to authorities (Felixstowe file photo)

Published Jan 17, 2024 12:39 PM by The Maritime Executive


The master of an MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company containership pleaded guilty in a UK court yesterday to operating his vessel while intoxicated. The police and court documents show that Captain Zbigniew Chowaniec, a 65-year old Polish national, was nearly four times over the legal limit for alcohol for seafarers at 07:00 on January 15 when his vessel arrived in the UK port of Felixstowe.

According to media reports, the pilot for the port boarded the MSC Roshney V (65,900 dwt) around 06:00 as the vessel was arriving from Antwerp. While guiding the vessel to the dock the pilot reported a strong smell of alcohol and became suspicious that the captain was drunk. 

After the vessel was secured, the pilot reported his suspicion to the port authorities. The port police boarded the vessel and met with the captain and arrested the master on the suspicion that he was heavily intoxicated while in command of the ship. The port police handed Chowaniec over to the Suffolk Police which performed a breathalyzer. Court papers indicated that he registered 93 micrograms per 100 with the legal limit for seafarers being just 25 micrograms. 

The vessel is one of the smaller ships operating in MSC’s fleet. Built in 2007 and registered in Liberia, it operates a route between Turkey and northern Europe. The ship had previously been in Felixstowe, moved to Antwerp, and was arriving back in the UK before proceeding to Turkey. The ship is 965 feet (294 meters) in length and has a capacity of 4,888 TEU.

Chowaniec appeared in the Suffolk Magistrate Court on Tuesday and pleaded guilty to the charge of being drunk. He surrendered his passport and was released on conditional bail. Sentencing is scheduled for February 12.

The containership departed Felixstowe on January 16 on its return trip to Turkey. 

Intoxication has been cited as a contributing factor in several recent causalities. One of the officers in a fatal accident with the Scot Carrier in 2021 was reported to have been drinking before his watch when they hit and sank a small Danish vessel killing two crewmembers. Danish and UK authorities cited drunken officers in the grounding of vessels in 2021 and 2022, and in 2023 a containership arriving in port at an excessive speed plowed into the dock in Kaoushiung, Taiwan with reports the pilot was drunk.