CELEBRITY CRUISE CAPTAIN PLEADS GUILTY TO, AND IS SENTENCED FOR, OPERATING A CRUISE SHIP UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF ALCOHOL
Former Captain is Fined, Placed on Probation, and Agrees to Stay Out of United States Waters as Crewmember for One Year
PERIKLIS PETRIDIS, 47, a Greek citizen, and former Captain of the Celebrity Cruise Line ship, Mercury, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Seattle today to one count of operating a vessel while under the influence of alcohol. United States Magistrate Judge James P. Donohue immediately sentenced PETRIDIS, pursuant to his plea agreement with the government, to one year of probation, and further ordered PETRIDIS not to enter United States waters as an employee of a commercial vessel of any type without approval of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for a period of one year. Judge Donohue also imposed a fine of $15,000. PETRIDIS previously spent four days in jail in connection with this charge.
PETRIDIS was arrested on May 19, 2006, when Coast Guard officials, during a routine visit, discovered that he had been drinking. PETRIDIS was in command of the 866-foot Celebrity Cruise ship, Mercury, carrying 1,884 passengers, scheduled to depart from Pier 66 in Seattle in less than four hours. According to witnesses, PETRIDIS’s breath smelled of alcohol, his eyes were bloodshot and red, and he appeared agitated and on edge. PETRIDIS was tested and found to have a blood alcohol level as high as 0.181, more than four times the legal limit for vessel operators. The federal maritime limit for operating a vessel in U.S. waters is 0.040. PETRIDIS ultimately failed four separate breath tests. Celebrity Cruise Line immediately relieved PETRIDIS of duty.
In sentencing PETRIDIS, Judge Donohue stressed the serious nature of the charge, and noted that the guilty plea shows that PETRIDIS committed an “abuse of trust” as the Captain of the Mercury. Judge Donohue added that PETRIDIS was charged with the safety and lives of almost 2,000 passengers and another 1,000 crewmembers. Judge Donohue commented that the Coast Guard’s mission is to prevent another incident similar to the Exxon Valdez.
"Today's guilty plea and sentencing demonstrates our resolve to protect the traveling public and Puget Sound, " said John McKay, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington.
"Barring Captain Petridis from U.S. Waters for a year sends a strong message that we will not turn a blind eye to those who flout our maritime laws putting passengers and other boaters at risk."
This case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service, and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Susan B. Dohrmann and Barbara J. Sievers, and Special Assistant United States Attorney Adam W. Cornell.
For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.