Drunk oil tanker captain almost causes catastrophe

The Transport Accident and Incident Investigation Bureau has launched an investigation into the incident involving the Latvian tanker "Flagman 1" running aground on a sandbank in Riga's Daugavgriva on Saturday. It is said that the investigation process will be lengthy due to technical inspections, the Bureau told LETA.

The tanker was on its way from Riga to Ventspils when it ran aground on a sandbank on the left bank of the Daugava River, while departing the Riga Port territory. The Transport Accident and Incident Investigation Bureau explains that such incidents rarely happen in the port's aquatorium.

One of the reasons why the tanker encountered a sandbank was due to malfunction of the ship's rudder, however, this theory will be verified during the investigation.

As reported, the captain (born 1962) of the Latvian tanker "Flagman 1", which ran aground in Daugavgriva late Friday, registered 2.34 on the breathalyzer, the State Police informed LETA.

Following the accident, the police had arrived and at the scene immediately checked the vessel's captain. They discovered that he was heavily intoxicated. The police drew up a report, and forwarded it to the Coast Guard for continued investigation.

According to LETA, the tanker is owned by an Estonian company. The vessel was loaded full with some 15,000 tons of fuel. It had been a few meters from the coast and quite swerved before it was pulled away from the sandbank. 

The acting head of the Coastal Guard Arnis Skribis said that a catastrophe had been very close. If the body of the ship had been pierced, the pollution would have spread across the coast and would take several years to clear up.

The 33 years old vessel had been en route from Rīga to Ventspils port, and it ran aground on a sandbank shortly after midnight. 

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