January 21, 2005

Master convicted of intoxication

The Coast Guard reports that the master of a Panama-flagged freighter was convicted Wednesday in Norfolk, Va., of operating a commercial vessel while under the influence of alcohol and was fined $3,000 and ordered not to operate a vessel in U.S. waters for one year.

Immigration officials are also processing Hungarian Janos Gyori, 52, for deportation.

Gyori was arrested Jan. 11 after the Captain of the Port of Hampton Roads denied entry of the 214-foot General Lee. The vessel had been targeted for both security and safety boardings using the Coast Guard's standard risk assessment procedures.

[A Coast Guard PSIX search on the ship is of interest here! http://cgmix.uscg.mil/PSIX/PSIX2/detail.asp?vkey=&VesselID=225108]

The freighter failed to stop 12 miles offshore for a security check, and Gyori did not respond to the Coast Guard over radio.

After the team detected alcohol on his breath, they conducted a field sobriety test, which he failed. Gyori then refused to cooperate with a breath test. Under U.S. regulations, a person refusing a chemical test when directed by a law enforcement officer is considered intoxicated.

During the trial, Gyori testified he only drank four beers and part of another the night before he took the helm at 4 a.m. Coast Guard officers conducted six sobriety tests, which he failed.

According to a report in the Virginian Pilot newspaper, Gyori testified that he did not feel intoxicated but was angered at the way armed Coast Guard officers treated him and his crew.

"They had a very bad effect on me. They shouted at me. I became very confused. I was mad and upset," he reportedly said on the stand.

"We are peaceful men and you treat us like pirates," he added.

"Commercial vessels are held to a higher standard under U.S. regulations for very good reasons," said Captain of the Port Bob O'Brien. "This vessel was carrying thousands of gallons of heavy fuel oil and would have passed through the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel and Monitor-Merrimac Bridge Tunnel.The master's intoxicated state put his vessel and the port at high risk of a serious accident."

O'Brien added that mariners can expect the same rapid, vigorous enforcement whenever violations are detected.


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