A HIGH-ranking seaman was so drunk aboard a ship preparing to leave Southampton docks that he risked causing a “potentially serious situation” at sea, it has been revealed.

Chief engineer Vladimir Raketskiy was found threeand- a-half times the drinkdriving limit aboard the BBS Sea during a routine safety inspection.

Southampton Crown Court heard how Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) marine surveyor Brian Cassidy boarded the cargo ship at 12.30pm on January 14 as it was being loaded with grain at berth 107.

The 2,316-tonne Dutch flagged vessel was due to set sail at 7.30pm that day.

When Mr Cassidy asked the captain to speak to the chief engineer he was told that Raketskiy was “not in a good shape”.

Prosecutor Francesca de Costa said: “Mr Cassidy then located the defendant in machinery space and noted that he could barely stand, although he was attempting to operate the machinery.

“Mr Cassidy formed the opinion that the defendant was drunk and notified the police accordingly.”

A police officer then found Raketskiy in his cabin. Initially the Russian sailor was incapable of blowing into the breathalyser but he was found to be three-and-a-half times the limit when he tried again.

At a police station, Raketskiy was unable to provide another required test because he was “inebriated”.

The BBS Sea was then forced to hire another chief engineer and left a day later – without Raketskiy, who was to be held first on remand and then by the UK Border Agency because he had no visa to enter the UK.

Raketskiy, 52, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to failing to provide a breath specimen.

Michael Carreras, defending, said his client’s work record “was excellent in many respects” and that he did not have an issue with alcohol.

He said that on the day Raketskiy was arrested he had just heard that his older brother had died a day before.

Mr Carreras added: “[Raketskiy] had clearly upset his family and upset his employers so much they have dismissed him and he is going back to Russia with an unknown future.”

Because Mr Raketskiy had been detained for 16 days and accepting it was a “one-off incident”, judge Peter Henry suspended a three-month jail sentence for two years and fined him £800.

He said: “The offence is serious because it is a necessity that all members of the crew are able to operate safely and efficiently.

“I have no power to disqualify you but you have been sacked from your job and it may be that your licence is reviewed.”

Speaking after the sentencing, MCA marine surveyor Mr Cassidy said: “Being intoxicated when the vessel was getting ready to start its voyage was completely irresponsible.

“The chief engineer was assessed as being unable to perform any of his normal or emergency response duties and he risked putting himself, his fellow crew and other sea-users in a potentially serious situation.”