'100m Lyubov Orlova cruise ship seen in Polar waters in happier days'
Cruising sailors in the Atlantic will be relieved to learn that the navigation hazard, the abandoned and possibly toxic cruise ship, lost and drifting somewhere in the North Atlantic (See Sail-World story), seems to have vanished from the high seas after an EPIRB signal was picked up by the Irish Coastguard some time ago, but no contact since. The reason for the EPIRB signal was likely to have been contact with water, indicating that the ship was sinking.
The Lyubov Orlova, a 328-ft (100m) vessel named after a Russian screen siren from the 1930s, was built in 1976 and chartered for expeditions to polar waters. The star-crossed ship had already not had an easy life: In 2006, it ran aground off Antarctica and had to be towed to safety by a Spanish icebreaker. The ship was then abandoned to rot by its owners in 2010 after a reported financial dispute between the owner and a charter company
Finally she left Canada bound for a scrapyard in the Dominican Republic on Jan. 23 this year. After only one day, however, a cable snapped. The crew was unable to reconnect the line, leaving the so-called 'ghost ship' to drift eastward across the Atlantic Ocean.
Once the ship drifted into international waters, the Canadian government had largely washed its hands of the issue. As reported back in February, Canada's transportation department said in a statement it was 'very unlikely that the vessel will re-enter waters under Canadian jurisdiction.'
With no crew, no warning lights and no GPS system, the ship appeared doomed. But later in February, the ship was spotted by the Atlantic Hawk, an oil industry supply ship, which managed to attach a towline.
Transport Canada, however, ordered the Atlantic Hawk to release the vessel since it was by then in international waters and no longer under Canadian jurisdiction.
Weeks passed with no sign of the Lyubov Orlova until it was spotted by the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, a Defense Department mapping service, drifting some 1,300 nautical miles west of the Irish coast, Gizmodo reports.
Then, in March, the Canadian Coast Guard reported that one of the ship's emergency radio beacons flashed a location almost 800nm off Newfoundland.
The Irish Coastguard also received a signal in March from the water-activated EPIRB of the Lyubov Orlova reported to be only 500nm from Ireland.
The sobering thing about the situation, apart from the fact of her being a navigation hazard, is that, according to French environmental organization Robin du Bois, if the boat has sunk somewhere near Ireland, it could be leaking toxic fluids into the water.
'In case of a collision or sinking or any accident, the Lyubov Orlova will immediately release fuel … other toxic liquids, asbestos ... mercury and other non-degradable floating waste,' the group declared in a statement, according to LiveScience.
While sailing boats with radar could have always detected the drifting ship, for boats without radar she would be difficult to detect at night even with a good watch-keeping protocol, and impossible on a dark and stormy night.
Let's hope other similar situations are not permitted to occur.
by Lee Mylchreest
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10:49 PM Fri 24 May 2013GMT
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