A Royal Canadian Navy officer could spend life in prison after being accused of leaving his post during a military operation, CBC News has learned.

The desertion charge stems from HMCS Preserver’s port visit to Florida last fall.

On that same trip there was an investigation into widespread drunkenness.

During the brief visit, there were at least 14 incidents involving dozens of sailors. Some sailors were returned to the ship by local police or shore patrol.

Now one Canadian sailor faces desertion charges. A Navy spokesman won't link the two cases.

Court martial

Capt. Darren Garnier confirms one sailor is now facing charges stemming from Preserver's Florida port visit. (CBC)

"The member will have his day in court, so to speak. It's innocent until proven guilty," said Capt. Darren Garnier. 

Desertion is one of the most serious charges in the military, with severe penalties.

"All charges in the [Canadian Forces] justice system I consider serious," said Garnier.

The sailor's name hasn't been released.

War of words on Wikipedia 

The Wikipedia page for HMCS Preserver was updated just days before the charge was laid.

The page included an entry that detailed a drunken party aboard the ship. It also talked about near collisions and the safety of the vessel.

"The ship remains a danger to the life and safety of those who serve her," read the entry. "Great embarrassment for the Navy."

The military corrected the entry, but it was hijacked again.

"Once again it would be tempting to go down there and speculate on that. It's unfortunate that these things happen from time to time," said Garnier.

The court martial is expected to happen next year and will be open to the public.

There have only been a handful of desertion cases since the Second World War. The Department of Defence said there’s only been one conviction between 2000 and 2010.