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Sea captain convicted of being drunk while on duty onboard ship coming into Belfast Lough

By Alan Erwin

A sea captain was convicted today of being drunk while on duty onboard a merchant ship coming into Belfast Lough.

Lithuanian national Eugenijus Tulauskas had been up to four times over the maritime limit when arrested in September last year.

Fining him £1,500, a judge pointed out that a pilot had to take control of the cargo vessel to ensure its safe passage into harbour.

The 44-year-old seaman, of no fixed abode, contested a charge of having excess alcohol while on duty as professional master of a ship.

His lawyers argued that he was not on duty at the time of the alleged offence.

Belfast Magistrates' Court heard that an experienced pilot sent out to guide the ship into port thought he smelt alcohol on Tulauskas's breath.

He alerted Harbour Police who detained the defendant and took a breath sample.

Talauskas confirmed at that stage he had not taken any alcohol in the previous four hours.

Ruling on the case, District Judge Amanda Henderson said: "I'm satisfied on the evidence that the defendant was not just master of the vessel but was on duty at the time."

Under the legislation she could have imposed a maximum £5,000 financial penalty for the offence.

But defence counsel argued that the Tulauskas was aware of the pilot's actions and had congratulated him on his manoeuvres.

"It's not a case that he was totally incoherent," the barrister said.

"The pilot came out and through collaboration controlled the vessel the whole way in."

Tulauskas, a professional seaman with 17 years experience, three of them as a ship's master, has since lost his job, the court heard.

Acknowledging his current financial plight, Judge Henderson added: "If the defendant were in employment I would be looking at the upper region (of a fine).

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