UK Judge Gives Drunken MSC Captain Suspended Sentence and Small Fine

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

Published Feb 13, 2024 4:39 PM by The Maritime Executive

A judge in the UK decided to have leniency with a suspended sentence for a captain who was found to been four times over the legal limit for alcohol when his containership docked in the UK last month. The BCC reports Judge David Wilson based his decision on the previous “good character” of Captain Zbigniew Chowaniec and his belief that the captain is not a present danger to the public.

Chowaniec, age 65 and a Polish citizen previously working for MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company told the court he was truly sorry for his actions. He said that his career at sea was “over.” 

He had been master of the containership MSC Roshney V, one of the smaller ships operating in MSC’s fleet. The ship is 965 feet (294 meters) in length and 65,900 dwt with a capacity of 4,888 TEU. Built in 2007 and registered in Liberia, it operates a route between Turkey and northern Europe. 

A pilot boarding the ship on January 15 to guide it to dock at Felixstowe told authorities he had become suspicious that the captain was drunk when he reached the bridge of the vessel shortly after 06:00. He reported a strong smell of alcohol to the authorities after the vessel was secured and the port police launched an investigation. 

Chowaniec was taken into custody and a test showed his blood alcohol level at nearly four times the legal limit for a working seafarer. According to the court report, he had a level of 93 micrograms of alcohol versus a legal limit of just 25 micrograms per 100 ml.

Chowaniec pleaded guilty in the Ipswich court and returned on Monday to be sentenced. The judge gave him eight weeks in prison and a fine of just over $620. The jail time however was suspended for 12 months on the condition that Chowaniec does not have another offense.