On Wednesday, the captain in charge of a boat that was supposed to bring passengers back from the island of Naissaar in the Bay of Tallinn, as well as two potential substitutes, were all prevented by the police from taking the helm of the boat because they were not sober. The passengers were taken to the mainland by the skipper of another boat.
On Wednesday morning, the police received a call to Naissaar where a drunk man had fallen on the ground and injured his head. A boat of the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) brought the injured man to the mainland and handed him over to an ambulance. It came out that the man was the captain of MS Monica that was scheduled to depart from Naissaar to Tallinn with about 50 people onboard at 3 p.m. the same day.
The boat of the PPA returned to the island some time before 3 p.m. to find out how the passengers can return to the mainland. When MS Monica's assistant captain offered to sail the boat, the police established that he had also drunk alcohol and forbade him to take on the role of skipper. By that time, the captain of MS Monica had returned to the island and offered to sail the boat, but since he was still under the influence of alcohol the police prevented him from taking the helm.
When contacted by the police, the owner of the boat promised to send a sober captain to the island. However, when the purportedly sober captain arrived, a check by the police revealed that the captain was also under the influence of alcohol. The owner of the boat then suggested that passengers wait for half an hour or so until some of the captains blows a zero on a breathalyzer test.
At 4 p.m. another passenger boat, MS Katharina, arrived in Naissaar's harbor. The police approached the captain of that vessel to find the fastest and safest option for the passengers stranded on the island to return. The captain of MS Katharina invited the passengers onto his boat and took them to the mainland for free.
Urmet Tambre, operations chief at the North Prefecture of the PPA, said that captains of passenger boats bear great responsibility for the safety of passengers and being sober is a definite prerequisite for this.
He added: "Zero tolerance applies to the captains of passenger vessels."
The head of operations added that boat operators must make sure that their captains understand the responsibility placed upon them and not overstep the limits also amid the holiday mood.
Tambre concluded: "A big thanks to the captain of MS Katharina, who quickly grasped the situation and helped the passengers stranded on the island back to the mainland."
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste