Attorney Anne Bremner argued that Petridis did drink, but while off duty, and has questioned the accuracy of breath-test readings. Petridis was off duty when the Coast Guard boarded the ship at 12:30 p.m.; Celebrity Cruises maintains that he broke company policy, which forbids ship officers from consuming alcohol eight hours before reporting for duty (Petridis was scheduled to be on duty at 5 p.m.).
(May 20, 2006) -- The captain of Celebrity's Mercury was arrested and jailed last night in Seattle when it was determined that his blood alcohol level was more than twice the federal maritime limit, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
The discovery was made yesterday afternoon -- turnaround day in Seattle for Mercury -- during a routine safety inspection by the Coast Guard. In a statement by a Coast Guard representative that appeared on Seattle's KOMO-TV, it was said that inspectors noticed that "there was a pretty strong odor on his breath." They gave him a breathalyzer test and he failed.
The captain, whose identity has not been disclosed (though rumors are rampant on Cruise Critic's Celebrity board) was arrested on suspicion of operating a commercial vessel under the influence of alcohol. He was fired by Celebrity and taken to jail. He will appear in U.S. District Court on Monday, in Seattle, where the penalty of what's termed a misdemeanor, could bring a fine and a jail sentence of one year.
The Coast Guard has said the captain had no prior alcohol-related citations.
According to a statement from Celebrity Cruises, "the captain of Celebrity Cruises' Mercury was relieved of his command today and will be dismissed from the company following his failure to pass a breath alcohol test given by the U.S. Coast Guard. The staff captain, who is fully qualified, is assuming command. Company policy forbids any officer from consuming alcohol within eight hours of reporting for duty. This is twice as stringent as international maritime regulations."
Indeed, says Celebrity Cruises president Dan Hanrahan, "The captain's actions are totally unacceptable, he has been stripped of his command and ordered off the ship. Any shipboard employee, from the captain down, will be dealt with as swiftly and severely."
The ship, now under the control of its staff captain -- the second ranking officer onboard -- was delayed 90 minutes as a result of the incident but has departed on its Alaska cruise.
We'll keep you posted.