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Southern Spars - North Technology

Missing Ghost Cruise Ship found - the strange tale of MV Lyubov Orlova

by Lee Mylchreest on 24 Feb 2013
Approximate position of ’ghost ship’ - Cross shows the current approximate position, travelling slowly east. SW
MV Lyubov Orlova has had an adventurous life as a cruise ship, but in her latest voyage her salons are empty, there's no band playing and no Captain on the bridge. Since she was let loose by Canadian authorities in International waters last month she has made her slow way across the Atlantic towards Europe, alone, obviously determined to escape the scrapyard where she was headed. Until now, no-one quite knew where she was.

But this week, after being adrift in the North Atlantic since the end of January she has finally been located - some 1200nm off the West of Ireland at coordinates 49-22.70N and 044-51.34W.

US technology site Gizmodo has reported on the discovery via the daily memorandum of the US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which creates maps for top-secret military and civilian use.

It's not clear by what means the vessel was detected, as it has no lights and its Automatic Identification System (AIS) is switched off. Curiouser and curiouser.


The Background:
In September 2010, Lyubov Orlova was seized at St John's, Newfoundland due to debts of US$251,000 owed to the charterer, Cruise North Expeditions, from a cancelled cruise due to faults with the ship. In addition, the 51 crew members had not been paid in five months. She was arrested in Newfoundland, and sold to Neptune International Shipping, in February 2012, to be broken up.

The derelict vessel had been tied up in St. John's harbour for over two years and was being towed by a tugboat, the Charlene Hunt to the Dominican Republic to be scrapped.

However, just one day after leaving the dock, the tow rope broke and MV Lyobov Orlova, named after a Russian movie star, escaped into the wilds of the Atlantic Ocean. Nearby were oil and gas operations which were put at risk. The crew of the tugboat tried to reconnect the line, but, hampered by high winds and three-metre seas, the escaped cruise ship could not be captured.

A few days later Transport Canada announced that the offshore supply vessel, Atlantic Hawk, with a 157 tonne continuous bollard pull rating, had successfully gained control of the drifting ship and that the latter was no longer a risk to oil and gas operations in the region.

It's not sure what happened next, but the ship ended up in international waters, and then Transport Canada decided to cut her loose.

'The Lyubov Orlova no longer poses a threat to the safety of offshore oil installations, their personnel or the marine environment. The vessel has drifted into international waters and given current patterns and predominant winds, it is very unlikely that the vessel will re-enter waters under Canadian jurisdiction,' the department said in a statement. Safety concerns were cited by Transport Canada in their reason to not pursue a salvage operation to retrieve the ship.
The ship was located on February 4 at approximately 250 nautical miles east of St. John’s, NL (approximately 50 nautical miles outside Canada’s territorial waters) and drifting northeasterly.

No-one knew quite what would happen. If left alone she could end up almost anywhere from the Norwegian Arctic, to western Africa, or stuck forever going round in circles in the middle of the North Atlantic Gyre.

But the Irish were concerned by this development and Irish Coast Guard director Chris Reynolds expressed concerns that the MV Lyubov Orlova might suddenly appear in Irish waters and become a burden on the State.

Current information on the ghost ship's position indicates that it is still being carried by Atlantic currents towards Europe.

Watch this space.

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