Freighter Captain Sentenced to Prison for Being Drunk While Commanding Ship

Seattle – SEONG UG SIN, a citizen of Korea, and captain of the STX Daisy was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to 14 days in prison, and 6 months of supervised release, during which time he is not allowed to sail in United States waters. SIN was arrested April 14, 2010, after a Coast Guard inspection crew found him drunk while in command of the 590 foot vessel in the Straits of Juan de Fuca. At trial earlier this month, the evidence revealed that SIN’s blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit. U.S. Magistrate Judge J. Richard Creatura imposed the sentence.

According to testimony at trial, the Coast Guard inspection team had difficulty boarding the STX Daisy in the early morning hours of April 14, 2010, as Captain Sin failed repeatedly to follow their instructions. The ten member inspection crew needed to board the 20 ton freighter from a small inflatable boat during three foot swells. Once on board, Captain Sin continued to have difficulty providing the records required, and a review determined he had no usable charts of Puget Sound. The ship was ordered to Port Angeles. SIN was given a breath test, which revealed his blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit for being in command of a vessel. A search of the ship determined that significant quantities of Korean whiskey had been consumed by SIN and one other officer.

In asking for a significant sentence, the government noted the potential for disaster with a drunk captain aboard a 20 ton freighter. “The consequences of an accident that may have occurred due to the defendants intoxication could have been catastrophic. The defendant’s intended journey through the Straits of Juan de Fuca and down the Puget Sound to Olympia covered over 205 miles through areas characterized by narrow channels and strong currents. More importantly, the defendant’s intended track crossed no less than six Washington State Ferry routes, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, and many areas of high commercial shipping and recreational boating activity. The defendant’s ship, carrying large quantities of fuel oil posed further risk to the marine environment. In the interest of public safety, a strong sentence is warranted to deter future mariners from following in this defendant’s wake,” the Assistant U.S. Attorneys wrote in their sentencing memo.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Matthew Thomas and David Reese Jennings, and by Special Assistant United States Attorney Marc Zlomek. Mr. Zlomek is a Lieutenant Commander and an attorney with the U.S. Coast Guard.

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