Drunken sailors who plot courses – or don’t - through the heavily trafficked waters of the Danish straits are mainly from Eastern Europe, according to the Newspaq agency.
“We can see from the accident statistics that it’s often Eastern Europeans that are drunk,” says Fritz Gantzholm, Head of Secretariat at the Danish Pilots Association.
As late as last Sunday, Russian sailors ploughed their cargo vessel aground off the island of Saltholm. The captain of the vessel had an alcohol content of 1.67 parts per thousand, while his first officer counted 1.19 parts per thousand.
In May last year, a Russian captain was also responsible for sailing the MCL Trader aground off Bornholm, while an Eastern European first officer with an alcohol content of 1.55 parts per thousand lost his life after sailing his cargo vessel into the Great Belt Bridge in 2005.
Pilots – stop drinking
According to Newspaq, the Danish Pilots Association says that maritime authorities should raise the issue of the Eastern European maritime drinking culture with the relevant countries concerned.
“It is shameful for the profession that such large ships can sail around with dead drunk people on board,” says Gantzholm.
The Danish Maritime Authority says that something is being done about the phenomenon.
“We have already been in contact with countries whose crews have been sailing under the influence. There is also an international movement to introduce universal alcohol rules at sea,” says Danish Maritime Authority Spokesman Frank Bjerg Mortensen.
He says that a dead man’s button – which has been introduced in Denmark – is also beginning to be an international requirement. The dead man’s button requires the master of a vessel to press a button in order to make sure that he is awake.
Take on pilots
According to the Danish Pilots Association, another way of ensuring greater safety is to introduce a pilot requirement.
“That way we can be sure that a rested, awake and sober person is on the bridge who can steer the vessel safely ,” says Gantzholm.
Admiral Danish Fleet Headquarters, which monitors all ship’s traffic in Danish waters and beyond, also agrees that a pilot requirement would be a good idea.
“It would clearly improve safety if there was a pilot on board this sort of vessel,” says Admiral Danish Fleet Headquarters Commander Hans Christian Iversen.