A ferry passenger sparked a major rescue when he set fire to his cabin while smoking cannabis on a journey to Amsterdam.
Boden Hughes was lighting cannabis resin in a bong device when he threw his lighter onto a pile of clothes, igniting them.
As flames engulfed his cabin 30 miles out to sea, an expensive rescue mission had to be launched and six passengers were airlifted to safety.
Hughes, whose legal team unsuccessfully argued the UK courts had no jurisdiction due to the location of the offence, has now pleaded guilty to arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered and a charge of affray.
A judge warned him he faces a substantial jail term when he is sentenced later this year.
Judge James Goss QC, at Newcastle Crown Court, told Hughes: “Be under no illusions as to the seriousness of the crimes you have admitted today.
“This was a very serious offence which will attract a substantial sentence of imprisonment.”
The blaze broke out aboard a DFDS passenger ferry sailing between North Shields and Amsterdam on December 28 last year.
Hughes had altered his lighter so it produced a constant flame as he heated the cannabis. When he threw it on a pile of clothes, flames engulfed the cabin and a large scale rescue had to be launched.
Six people, including a pregnant passenger, were airlifted off the vessel suffering the effects of smoke inhalation, and the ferry was diverted back to the North Shields terminal.
The drama unfolded when DFDS’s King Seaways ferry was around 30 miles north east of Flamborough Head, near Scarborough, with a total of 946 passengersand 127 crew on board.
Hughes, 26, of Fulwell Road, Sunderland, was further remanded in custody will be sentenced in September.
Ian Lawrie QC, prosecuting, said figures will be produced at the next hearing to show the losses incurred by DFDS after the fire. He said the helicopter rescue alone cost £50,000.
Mr Lawrie said a reconstruction of the fire showed that a blaze in a cabin using the same combustible clothing took just two minutes to engulf the space.
Hughes was guilty of “spectacular recklessness”, he said.
He added: “He was clearly drunk, he was clearly also on drugs.
“This happened while he was drunk and drugged and he was unable to do anything about it when the flames took hold.”
Helicopters from RAF Boulmer in Northumberland were scrambled to the vessel along with RNLI lifeboats.