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Captain caged

PUBLISHED: 12:42 27 November 2008 | UPDATED: 15:44 25 August 2010

A UKRANIAN captain who sailed a tanker laden with 4,000 tonnes of explosive chemicals and diesel into London while drunk on red wine has been jailed for two months.

A UKRANIAN captain who sailed a tanker laden with 4,000 tonnes of explosive chemicals and diesel into London while drunk on red wine has been jailed for two months.

Volodymyr Gonchar, 53, was unable to communicate with river pilots as they boarded the Cypriot-registered Elousa Trikoukiotisa as the vessel entered the Thames Estuary.

The tanker's volatile cargo of ammonium nitrate could have sparked a massive explosion if the liquid fertiliser mixed with diesel as a result of an accident, Snaresbrook Crown Court heard last Wednesday.

If the Dagenham Docks-bound ship had run ashore or sunk, leaking its lethal cargo, the incident could have caused environmental and economic disaster for the Thames - one of the world's busiest ports.

Prosecutor Matthew Dalton said a river pilot boarded the tanker on November 4 this year and found bearded Gonchar drunk.

Police boarded the vessel as it passed Erith said Mr Dalton, and Gonchar was relieved of his command.

The tanker, which had a crew of 15 men, was safely berthed at Dagenham Dock, the court heard.

Gonchar was arrested at 2.55pm after he was breathalysed and had 103 microgrammes of alcohol in 100ml of breath - the legal limit is 80, the same for road users.

Pam Oon, defending, said the married dad-of-two, who qualified as a captain in 1989, had been toasting the 25th anniversary of his father's death.

Gonchar, of Kerch, Crimea, Ukraine, pleaded guilty to being the master of a ship while being over the alcohol limit.

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