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Captain Deemed Drunk Faces Possible Charges; Ship to Get New Skipper

Times Staff Writer

Alan Jones, the 58-year-old captain ordered to give up command of a cargo ship after being reported drunk at the helm and steering erratically, was headed back to his native England Sunday, the U.S. Coast Guard announced.

The Coast Guard said Saturday that it was investigating Jones for possible charges of negligence and the nautical equivalent of drunk driving. Both charges carry a possible fine of $5,000 and a one-year prison sentence.

In England, Jones will face possible disciplinary action against his captain’s license, Coast Guard Capt. James C. Card said Sunday in a news conference.

A new freighter captain, also from England, was to arrive in Los Angeles late Sunday to take charge of the 728-foot Century Hope and its cargo of 57,000 metric tons of soybeans headed for Japan, Card said.

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He added that the ship will be able to proceed once the new captain’s credentials are checked and the ship’s owners have guaranteed a $10,000 bond.

While the earlier announcement said that the Coast Guard initially announced that it had relied on statements by three ship’s officers and two deck hands that Jones was drunk, Card said Sunday that Coast Guard personnel who boarded the Century Hope Saturday determined by their own observations that Jones was intoxicated. Jones could not be reached for comment.

Card said that Coast Guard personnel did not conduct field sobriety tests of physical coordination. But they noted that Jones had the odor of alcohol on his breath, that his eyes were bloodshot, his speech was slurred and he was unsteady on his feet.

Alcohol-level findings from a blood sample taken from Jones as the Century Hope headed back to the Los Angeles-Long Beach harbors may be available today.

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Operators of commercial vessels face a more stringent standard of legal intoxication--a blood alcohol level of .04%--than car drivers, who are legally drunk if they have a blood alcohol level of .10%.

Card said that the more strict standard, which has been in effect for about a year, is in line with a tougher stance about intoxication.

“Let’s face it,” he said. “The attitudes of this country are changing with respect to the use of alcohol. People deserve to have safe transportation.”


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