A VODKA-swigging Russian captain has been jailed after the cargo ship he was steering while drunk almost crashed into another boat off the Furness coast.

Alexander Tipisov, 64, was in charge of Brin-Navolok, a Russian vessel with a gross tonnage of 1,861, when he carried out dangerous manoeuvres around Barrow Port on Tuesday after drinking too much alcohol.

Near collision

The ship was just moments from disaster and on course to hit another boat at around 2.45pm but was pushed to safety by a tug thanks to the quick-thinking of Barrow Port marine pilot, Charles Simcox.

Tipisov was sentenced to four months in prison at Barrow Crown Court yesterday after he pleaded guilty to being a master of a ship when under the influence of alcohol.

Paul Brockwell, prosecuting, told the court that Mr Simcox arrived on the ship's bridge to advise Tipisov on how to use Barrow Port as it prepared to leave.

Mr Brockwell said: "When seen by Mr Simcox, [Captain Tipisov] looked dishevelled and not very alert.

"Captain Tipisov had took control of the ship's direction and speed and began to make mistakes. For example, he got the tides wrong.

"He appeared to be acting almost opposite to the instructions provided by the pilot.

"In short, the maneuvers he was executing became hazardous. Captain Tipisov began to swear at the pilot.

"Mr Simcox had to ask for a tow to bring the ship back alongside and he also contacted the harbour master who in turn contacted the police."

Breath test

It was at this point when the ship's tow had to be used to push the vessel after from a collision.

Tipisov left the ship and was breathalyzed at the scene, with the test showing he had 80 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, well above the legal limit of 35.

He had spent the afternoon drinking vodka in celebration of his grandchild's first birthday.

Brin-Navolok was returning hired equipment to Barrow used on oil rigs in Russia. The vessel, which is 88 metres long and from Arkhangelsk, has been moored at Associated British Ports Barrow since the incident. Another captain will have to travel from Russia to sail the ship.

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Richard Bennett, in mitigation, told the court that Tipisov had 30 years of experience as captain but had only been with Brin-Navolok for four months.

Mr Bennett said: "He tells me he's a family man at home. He has a wife and two daughters. He has two grandchildren, one of which had reached the age of one year on the day of this offence.

"He was drinking vodka. He had too much, of course.

"He's sorry. He realises the potential seriousness of being in charge of a ship while over the limit."

The maximum sentence Her Honour Judge Beverley Lunt could impose on Tipisov was two years but she gave him credit for his early guilty plea and having no previous convictions.

Judge's comments

During sentencing, Judge Lunt told Tipisov: "You have a grave responsibility when you are the captain of a ship.

"You are responsible for the safety of your crew and anyone else on your ship. You must ensure you actions don't endanger other boats or ships or persons.

"The ship that you were in charge of was substantial and you knew that you had drunk a lot of alcohol and shouldn't be taking control of it.

"You should have delayed your departure until you were sober but you didn't.

"You actually endangered others by your manoeuvres to the extent that the pilot had to get the tug boat to nudge your ship away from an immediate collision from another vessel and back into the dock where you couldn't cause anymore harm. That in itself is a manoeuvre that would have been a difficult one for any tug.

"Your response to the pilot who arranged this safe way of dealing with your ship was to swear at him.

"You failed the breath test and you were twice over the legal limit."