Ghost Ship: Abandoned Russian Cruise Ship That’s Roaming International Waters

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To this day, no one really knows the exact number of how many ships are floating on the high seas and in on our oceans – or how many are lying just below the surface. And until someone comes across the Russian ship, Lyubov Orlova, or it beaches itself on some shore, the fate of this ghost ship will remain a total mystery.

Since breaking free from a towing line on its final journey to a scrap yard, the MV Lyubov Orlova, a Russian cruise ship, has been drifting unmanned in the North Atlantic since January 2013. The ship had been a Yugoslav ice-strengthened Maria Yermolova class cruise ship, used mainly for Antarctic tours.

After being decomissioned in 2010, the ship was left for nearly two years in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Her condition only continuing to deteriorate, she was designated to be transported to a scrapyard in the Dominican Republic. Only a day into the voyage, the towing cable snapped and the ship was cast adrift. Concerned for the risk to local gas and oil operations in the region, Transport Canada sent the 157-tonne constant bollard pull rated supply ship Atlantic Hawk under contract by Husk Energy to recapture Lyubov Orlova.

Once in international waters, Transport Canada ordered Lyubov Orlova cut loose and has since relinquished responsibility of the ship, which they say is unlikely to re-enter Canadian waters or cause damage to offshore installations now that it is in open seas.

Lyubov Orlova

Lyubov Orlova

Although it was assumed to have sunk, a document from the US intelligence agency obtained by the AFP revealed that the abandoned ship had recently been spotted around 1,300 nautical miles from the coast of Ireland and is drifting in the direction of Europe. With the prevailing winds and typical current patterns, it’s unlikely that she will float back into Canadian jurisdiction.

Lyubov Orlova derelict dockside in St. John's, 2012

Lyubov Orlova derelict dockside in St. John’s, 2012

The ships could end up anywhere from Western Africa to the Norwegian Arctic, or it could get caught in the North Atlantic Gyre.

Lyubov Orlova dockside in St. John’s, 2012. – By Dan Conlin – CC BY 3.0

Transport Canada repeated that the owner of the ship is still responsible for the ships movements, and measures were taken to monitor the position of the drifting vessel.

Motor Vessel Lyubov Orlova and it's lifeboats; the first one had a two-cyllinder Diesel engine which was being repaired by the russian crew. Photo Credit

Motor Vessel Lyubov Orlova and it’s lifeboats; the first one had a two-cyllinder Diesel engine which was being repaired by the russian crew. – By Lilpop,Rau&Loewenstein – CC BY-SA 3.0

On February 23, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency released a statement that Lyubov Orlova was seen around 1300 nautical miles away from the Irish coast.

On February 28, she had been the subject of news reports in Ireland and Iceland, and a caution to smaller ships had been issued. A March 1 2013 report from Irish media stated that there was a signal from the ship’s emergency system.

Despite being painted dark blue, M / V Lyubov Orlova's red star can still be seen in the front ...

Despite being painted dark blue, M / V Lyubov Orlova’s red star can still be seen in the front … – By Lilpop,Rau&Loewenstein – CC BY-SA 3.0

An EPIRB starts its transmission only when the device is exposed to water. This indicating radio beacon (ERIPB) had been received from 700 nautical miles off the coast of Kerry.

This is leading experts to theorize that the ship might have sunk. The Irish Air Corps had been expected to continue to monitor in the region.