Captain jailed for crashing ship into pier after six pints

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A Crown Court judge solved the ancient dilemma of what to do with a drunken sailor yesterday: he jailed him for eight months.

A Crown Court judge solved the ancient dilemma of what to do with a drunken sailor yesterday: he jailed him for eight months.

Captain Andrew Bartlett was put behind bars for drunkenly steering a 680-ton dredger into a Victorian pier, leaving a 50ft gap in the middle.

Bartlett had drunk six pints of beer before he took charge of his ship and crashed into the 2,000ft Hythe Pier in Southampton on 1 November last year.

Shortly before the accident coastguards had become alarmed as the MV Donald Redford weaved erratically through the water. Southampton Crown Court heard that when they radioed the shipBartlett's voice sounded "slurred."

A crew member had pointed out to Bartlett that the ship was veering to one side but he had told him to mind his own business. Bartlett tried to correct the ship's route, but continued to steer towards Hythe Pier and moments later it smashed into the wooden structure.

Four hours after the accident, Bartlett was breathalysed and found to be almost three times over the legal drink-drive limit.

The damage to the pier took months to repair and cost £300,000.

When he appeared in court yesterday, Bartlett admitted one count of endangering lives by being drunk in charge of the vessel and one of causing damage to the pier.

Christopher Parker, for the prosecution, told the court that Bartlett had gone ashore for two hours and visited the Yacht Tavern in Southampton. He had drunk six pints before returning to his dredger at Supermarine Quay in Southampton.

Mr Parker said: "The vessel started to head down the river Itchen. A crewman noticed the ship was drifting towards starboard and he pointed this out to Bartlett and was told in a jocular fashion to 'f*** off' because it was none of his business.

"Nevertheless Bartlett took corrective action towards the port side and the crewman left the bridge to work at the stern."

But the court heard Bartlett had turned too late. Soon after, the ship struck the pier.

The court heard that it had been "fortunate" that the last people had left the busy pier 15 minutes earlier.

Bartlett, of Portsmouth, Hampshire, was described as "a natural ship-handler" who had enjoyed "an impressive career" over 20 years.

William Mousley, for the defence, said the mariner had been drinking that day because he was under pressure at work and had problems at home with one of his children.

Judge John Boggis QC told Bartlett that he had no option other than to jail him. "These offences are extremely serious. If the Hythe ferry had just dropped passengers off at the pier, or if a vessel had been entering or leaving Southampton at the time, the results could have been appalling."