PORTLAND - The 53-year-old Turkish ship captain accused last month of piloting a bulk carrier on the Columbia River while drunk cannot return to the U.S. for six months.

Merih Dorbek pleaded guilty in federal U.S. District Court in Portland last week to one count of operating a vessel while under the influence of alcohol, a Class A misdemeanor. He was sentenced to one year probation and told not to return to the country for six months without the attorney general's permission. He also paid a $1,000 fine and a special assessment of $25.

Dorbek's case began with a 911 phone call around 11 p.m. June 3, when a crew member on the H. Hassan Yardim reported his captain was drunk on the 600-foot-long ship, anchored just off Astoria. The U.S. Coast Guard launched a 25-foot response boat from Station Cape Disappointment to investigate. A breathalyzer test showed the captain's blood alcohol as 0.18 percent, according to Coast Guard case documents.

A person operating a commercial vessel on U.S. waters is legally intoxicated if his or her blood alcohol content exceeds 0.04 percent, according to federal regulations.

The captain faced fines up to $100,000 and a sentence of up to one year in prison for the violation.

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