Tuesday, March 18, 2008

What shall we do with the drunken sailors?

BALTIMORE - Five crew members of a Maltese-flagged ship held in Maryland waters have been charged with improperly operating the ship because crew members were intoxicated and one pulled a knife on a Maryland pilot, prosecutors said.

Federal prosecutors announced the arrests Monday in an ongoing investigation by the Coast Guard and Maltese officials into what happened March 10 aboard the Ocean Victory.

Maryland Chesapeake Bay pilots sought Coast Guard assistance after learning several crew members were intoxicated while they were navigating out of the bay.

A bay pilot demanded Master Wojciech Kowalski, 63, find a sober sailor to man the wheelhouse, authorities said. But prosecutors said Volodym Voychenko, 45, smelled of alcohol and shoved the pilot before threatening the pilot with a large knife.

Those arrested Friday include Kowalski of Poland and Second Officer Yevgen Bystrov, 39, from Ukraine. Two seaman Sergey Prokofyev, 37, of Russia, Voychenko of Ukraine, and oiler Yuri Shelkunov, 29, of Ukraine were charged.

Prokofyev, Shelkunov, Bystrov and Voychenko were charged with operating the vessel while intoxicated. Kowalski was charged with making false statements, failing to make sure the boat was properly manned and failing to notify the Coast Guard it wasn't properly manned.

The 328-foot-vessel has been anchored at the mouth of the Patuxent River since a no-sail order March 10.

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