Anthony Michael Baker, 53, from Devon, pleaded guilty after being found drunk in charge of the cargo vessel, Shansi. He was fined NZD $3,000

A British cargo ship master has been suspended after he pleaded guilty to exceeding the alcohol limit for a seafarer.

Anthony Michael Baker, 53, from Devon, was also fined NZD $3,000, around £1,694, when he appeared before the Whangarei District Court in New Zealand on Monday (7 August).

Maritime New Zealand said Baker’s conviction served as a strong warning and reminder to seafarers.

“Safety is paramount, if you are over the alcohol limit you will be prosecuted,” said  Maritime NZ’s Northern Regional Manager, Neil Rowarth, after the court case.

Baker was more than five times over the legal limit for a seafarer when he was breathalysed on Friday morning (4 August).

He had just berthed the multi-purpose cargo ship, Shansi, at New Zealand’s Whangarei Harbour.

The Maritime Transport Act limit is 250 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath. Baker blew a test of 1,345 micrograms.

The court heard that Baker had sailed the 40,000-tonne Shansi from the Port of Tauranga to Whangarei Heads before mooring at sea for two days while waiting for the allotted time to berth at Northport in Whangarei Harbour.

On Friday morning (4 August), Senior Pilot, Kirit Barot, and Trainee Pilot, Richard Oliver, boarded Shansi to help her enter the harbour and berth at Northport.

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There were difficulties with the ship’s engine and anchor, and the court was told that the crew had difficulty locating the ship’s master.

Once he was found, Barot and Oliver became concerned that Baker smelt of alcohol, and contacted the ship’s agent, the harbour master, and Maritime NZ.

A Maritime Officer boarded Shansi with a police officer. Baker was asked to take an alcohol breath test, and was subsequently arrested, placed in police custody and charged.

In his defence, Baker’s lawyer told the court that his client, who has been a seafarer for more than 35 years, had been suspended from the China Navigation Company Limited, where he had worked for two decades.

He stressed that Baker had not been on duty at the time, and had navigated the ship to its beth without difficulty.

Commenting following the case, Maritime New Zealand’s Neil Rowarth said: “The master is legally responsible for their ship and all on board, and must be able to carry out their duties safely.”

“A shipping accident can have tragic and widespread consequences. It endangers the crew, seafarers on other ships, and the environment – it can do serious damage to local economies and communities.”

“Alcohol impairs judgment and increases the risk of accidents. Where we find seafarers over the limit, we will take action,” he warned.