RAF crew had to save 'drunk tanker captain'

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The Independent Online

Had it been "earlye" in the morning, the villagers of Macduff might have known how to handle Captain Clive Mottram after he and his shipmates embarked on a five-hour drinking session in the local pub.

Had it been "earlye" in the morning, the villagers of Macduff might have known how to handle Captain Clive Mottram after he and his shipmates embarked on a five-hour drinking session in the local pub.

Disaster struck after Captain Mottram, 54, skipper of the 100,000-tonne tanker Matco Clyde, dropped anchor off the Scottish coast, north of Aberdeen, last March. In need of a drink, the captain, his chief engineer, John Blamires, and two other senior crew took a small launch to visit the Macduff Arms where they drank up to seven pints.

A tribunal was told that their initial attempt to leave Macduff was not successful. Belinda Bucknell QC, prosecuting on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, said the men had forgotten to untie the mooring rope.

"As they attempted to steer their craft ... they collided with the East Harbour wall," she said. When they crashed a second time villagers urged them to return to shore, informing them of force 6 winds. Dismissing the locals with "an obscene gesture with the finger", the men took to the open sea but travelled just six miles before running out of petrol and being swamped by waves.

At 7pm a Royal Navy helicopter spotted them and winched down a rescuer who found Captain Mottram slumped over the steering wheel, semi-conscious. The helicopter took them to Lossiemouth where they were questioned by police.

Captain Mottram, from Southampton, and Mr Blamires, from Buxton, Derbyshire, are charged with serious negligence and misconduct under the Merchant Shipping Act. Captain Mottram's solicitor said he had since been dismissed from Mobil, the owners of the tanker, after more than 25 years with the company. He claimed he had not been drunk.

The tribunal, at Eastleigh, Hampshire, continues today.

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