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Two Officers Accused of Drunkenness After Fatal Collision in Baltic

Sweden detains officers in fatal shipping collision
Danish Karin Hoj was repositioned into sheltered waters (Sjöräddnings Sällskapet)

Published Dec 14, 2021 3:02 PM by The Maritime Executive

After a collision between a Danish barge and a UK-flagged freighter, two officers aboard the British vessel have been taken into custody after allegedly failing an alcohol test. Swedish prosecutors said decisions about arrests would be made by Thursday, December 16, while the Scot Carrier and its crew are undergoing further inspections and interviews.

A spokesperson for the U.K. shipping company Scotline Marine Holdings confirmed that the Chief Officer, a Croatian national, and the Second Officer, a British national, remain detained by Swedish authorities. They reported that as is normal practice in these cases, all crew members of the Scot Carrier were tested for drugs and alcohol and two crew members were found to be exceeding the Swedish legal limit for alcohol.

The Swedish Prosecution Authority in a brief statement provided further details saying after interrogation, the British citizen is “suspected of aggravated drunken driving, aggravated negligence in maritime traffic, and aggravated causing another person's death. A Croatian citizen is suspected of gross sea drunkenness.” They said a decision would be made after additional investigations which are ongoing by the Swedish authorities along with the Danish and British.

Both the shipping company and the Swedish Transportation Authority offered some additional details on the events leading up to the collision which caused the Danish barge Karin Høj to capsize trapping one crew member who was later found inside the overturned vessel. Analysis shows that the two vessels were running parallel through the busy sea channel between Sweden and Denmark.

The first indication of the accident came when the Swedish monitoring station receive a signal from the EPIRB emergency beacon on the Danish vessel. The Swedish Coast Guard began to investigate, contacting the Scot Carrier. “The second officer, who was on the bridge at the time requested the master to come to the bridge of the Scot Carrier where he reported contact with the Swedish Coastguard,” according to the shipping company. 

Once all crew members had been accounted for and an initial damage assessment completed, the Scot Carrier then returned to the location of the incident and launched a rescue boat to participate in the search and rescue operation. The shipping company believes that the time between the incident and the Scot Carrier altering course to the location of the incident was under 25 minutes.

Swedish Sea Rescue, Swedish Coast Guard, and two Danish vessels joined in the search that continued until mid-morning. The overturned vessel was then towed to a more sheltered position when divers began a survey discovering the body of one of the two missing crew members.

The Scot Carrier was piloted by the Swedish Maritime Administration on Monday evening into Ystad. The Swedish Transport Agency is inspecting the vessel. Officials were seen using underwater drones to inspect the vessel in addition to the images of a dent in the bow of the vessel.

Today, the Swedish Coast Guard was planning to reposition the Karin Høj. They were expecting tugboats to arrive that had been hired by the Danish shipping firm and were awaiting a salvage plan. The Coast Guard's environmental operation team was focusing on stabilizing the situation and monitoring the vessel until the owner takes over.