Freighter captain pleads guilty to alcohol count

PORTLAND, Ore. — Federal prosecutors say the captain of a 736-foot-long freighter was intoxicated as his ship was trying to cross the hazardous Columbia River bar near Astoria, Ore.

U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall said Georgios Choulis had a blood-alcohol level of .287. Federal law prohibits operation of commercial vessels with a blood-alcohol content over .04.

The Coast Guard removed him from the Malta-flagged ship Laconia on Tuesday. A river bar pilot and a Coast Guard team had boarded the vessel to assist in its transit from the Pacific Ocean into the Columbia. The Coast Guard reported that Choulis was found sleeping with a nearly empty bottle of Scotch whisky beside him.

He pleaded guilty Friday to operating a commercial vessel under the influence of alcohol. U.S. District Judge Marco Hernandez in Portland sentenced him to a year’s probation, a $500 fine and barred him from U.S. waters for a year. The Oregonian reports he was expected to fly back to his native Greece.

The Coast Guard has released the freighter to pick up a load of grain at Longview, Wash.

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