Belfast Telegraph

Drunken sailor could face two years jail over Belfast StenaLine ferry collision

Miroslaw Pozniak, the captain of a cargo ship involved in a collision with a StenaLine passenger ferry in Belfast Lough, could face two years in jail, a court has been told.

The 55-year-old has also been sacked by the shipping company he worked for, Newtownards Magistrates' Court heard.

Prosecutors said they had decided to take the case against the Polish national to a crown court.

He has already indicated he will plead guilty to being over the alcohol limit when his vessel collided with the ferry last Wednesday.

During a brief hearing today, a lawyer for the Public Prosecution Service told District Judge Mark Hamill the maximum penalty for the offence that could be handed down in a crown court is two years imprisonment.

Pozniak, who was again refused bail, was captaining the Union Moon which collided with a Stena Line ferry travelling from Birkenhead to Belfast.

The incident happened at 7.45pm on Wednesday and the ferry passengers said they feared disaster when they were initially warned they may have to abandon ship.

Both vessels suffered damage in the collision at the entrance to Belfast Lough, about a mile and a half from shore.

No one was injured and the ferry was able to complete its journey safely.

There were 51 passengers and 47 crew on board the ferry and all safely disembarked at Belfast.

An interpreter translated the proceedings to Pozniak, who was remanded in custody last Friday, as he stood in the dock handcuffed to a prison officer this morning.

Dressed in a white T-shirt and jeans, the unshaven Pole did not speak during the hearing.

Opposing bail, a police officer revealed the captain had been sacked in the wake of the incident.

"He was dismissed by his employers on Friday," he said.

The officer explained that the company was therefore not prepared to provide assurity on bail.

He said police were also concerned the captain might flea the jurisdiction if he was released and said even confiscating his passport would not allay their fears.

But a lawyer for the captain said his client was a law-abiding man with an exemplary record at sea and revealed that a locally-based employee of the shipping agents that engaged his cargo vessel was prepared to put him up at an address in Newtownabbey, on the outskirts of Belfast.

"He (Pozniak) is a 55-year-old sea captain who has been in gainful employment all his life and certainly is not known to police in this jurisdiction or his own," said the lawyer.

"I would say he does meet bail requirements under the Bail Act."

The solicitor said the captain was also prepared to put up £2,000 of his own money as bail.

But judge Hamill said he would not consider bail today.

He told the PPS he wanted to be in a position to return the case to the crown court at a preliminary inquiry on Tuesday next week and would look again at the bail application then.

"A decision has been taken to take him to the crown court to proceed with the indictment," said the judge.

"The maximum penalty there is two years in prison."

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