Mystery of the Lyubov Orlova: Ghost ship full of cannibal rats ‘could be heading for British coast’
ADAM WITHNALL Thursday 23 January 2014 / http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/mystery-of-the-lyubov-orlova-ghost-ship-full-of-cannibal-rats-could-be-heading-for-british-coast-9080103.html
A ghost ship carrying nothing but disease-ridden rats could be about to make land on Britain’s shore, experts have warned.
The infamous Lyubov Orlova cruise liner has been drifting across the north Atlantic for the better part of a year, and salvage hunters say there is a strong chance it is heading this way.
Built in Yugoslavia in 1976, the unlucky vessel was abandoned in a Canadian harbour after its owners were embroiled in a debt scandal and failed to pay the crew.
The authorities in Newfoundland tried to sell the hull for scrap – valued at £600,000 – to the Dominican Republic, but cut their losses when it came loose in a storm on the way.
Sending the ship off into international waters, Transport Canada said it was satisfied the Lyubov Orlova “no longer poses a threat to the safety of [Canadian] offshore oil installations, their personnel or the marine environment”.
Experts say the ship, which is likely to still contain hundreds of rats that have been eating each other to survive, must still be out there somewhere because not all of its lifeboat emergency beacons have been set off.
Two signals were picked up on the 12 and 23 March last year, presumably from lifeboats which fell away and hit the water, showing the vessel had made it two-thirds of the way across the Atlantic and was heading east.
A week later, an unidentified object of about the right size was spotted on radar just off the coast of Scotland – but search planes never verified the find.
Pim de Rhoodes, a Belgian salvage hunter who is among a number looking for the Lyubov Orlova off the UK coastline, told The Sun: “She is floating around out there somewhere.
“There will be a lot of rats and they eat each other. If I get aboard I'll have to lace everywhere with poison.”
The head of the Irish coastguard, Chris Reynolds, said the ship was more likely than not to still pose a threat.
Adrift: The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency is keeping tabs on the empty MV Lyubov Orlova, but it may be lost at sea forever
Russian ghost cruise ship which vanished in the mists off Newfoundland two months ago and has now reappeared half way across the Atlantic
The MV Lyubov Orlova vanished en route to the Dominican Republic
Set sail from Canada bound for Caribbean where it was to be scrapped
Empty vessel has reappeared near the west coast of Ireland
Sighting of the ship reported by U.S. intelligence agency
By KERRY MCDERMOTT
PUBLISHED: 13:24 GMT, 22 February 2013 /
All at sea: The ship was being towed to the Dominican Republic to be scrapped when it broke free
When this empty Russian cruise ship disappeared into the mist en route to the Caribbean, it was thought the abandoned vessel could be lost to the ocean forever.
But after spending almost two months adrift the ghostly liner is reported to have re-emerged near Ireland's west coast - thousands of miles from its intended destination.
The MV Lyubov Orlova - named after a famous Soviet actress - was being towed to the Dominican Republic to be scrapped when the cable pulling it snapped, leaving the Orlova to slip away as the crew on board the towing ship battled howling winds and 10ft waves to try in vain to reconnect the line.
The stranded liner, which had left Canadian shores on January 23, was later secured by the supply vessel Atlantic Hawk, but the ship drifted loose a second time, according to a report on the PhysOrg website
Maritime authorities in Canada could not pinpoint the location of the ship, which has no warning lights and a broken global positioning system.
But now a U.S. intelligence agency has reported that the Orlova was sighted 1,300 nautical miles from Ireland's west coast.
Canada's transport authority has said the abandoned ship is no longer its concern as the vessel has left the country's waters, with officials insisting the owner of the Orlova is responsible for its movements.
A document from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency states that the Lyubov Orlova was spotted at the co-ordinates 49-22.70N and 044-51.34W, or roughly
miles from the Irish coast.
The agency analyses satellite imagery and uses the results to create detailed maps for the U.S. government.
The empty liner is understood to be slowly drifting towards the European coastline.
Now home only to rats, the 1976-built ship once carried passengers on Antarctic cruises.
The ship was seized by authorities in Newfoundland in 2010 amid spiralling debts owed to charter firm Cruise North Expeditions after faults on board meant a scheduled cruise had to be cancelled.
She is understood to have been sold to Neptune International Shipping in February last year to be broken up.
Ghost riders: An unmanned Russian ship full of rats is adrift in the Atlantic - so, just how many other vagrant vessels are out there?
SAMUEL MUSTON / Thursday 23 January 2014 / http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/ghost-riders-an-unmanned-russian-ship-full-of-rats-is-adrift-in-the-atlantic--so-just-how-many-other-vagrant-vessels-are-out-there-9081509.html
In happier times, the MV Lyubov Orlova was a pleasure ship, a cruiser accustomed to taking well-heeled Russian holidaymakers on adventure tours around the Arctic. Today, that same 295ft ship is bobbing somewhere off the coast of Ireland, its only passengers a horde of disease-ridden rats.
The trouble for the ship began last February. Set for the breakers yard, it was being towed from Canada to the Dominican Republic by an American-owned tug. A day into the journey, however, the line between the vessels broke. The tug tried to reconnect it, but was hampered by 35mph winds. It withdrew and the Orlova was left crewless and adrift.
The Canadian authorities, worried that the ship might collide with its offshore oil wells, sent another, larger boat that caught hold of the stricken vessel. It did not take it to port, however. Instead, it towed the Orlova beyond Canadian waters and let it drift out to sea.
Its lonely journey has now run to 12 months and as many as 2,000 nautical miles. The ship, having crossed the Atlantic, is now supposedly on Ireland's doorstep. Unsurprisingly, the Irish Coast Guard is unenthusiastic about the situation. "We don't want rats from foreign ships coming on to Irish soil," the director of the Irish maritime agency told the Irish Independent.
There is not a great deal that can be done to prevent the rats from establishing a beachhead, however, given that the ship has no location-finding devices on board and no one knows where it is exactly. As Gemma Wilkie, a spokesman for the British Chamber of Shipping points out, the situation is about as uncertain as it gets. "Clearly, the coastguard involved was vigilant in carrying out a search in response to the radar results showing an object of similar size off the Scottish coast – although as yet there has been no confirmed sighting of the ship in UK waters," she says.
Although the maritime authorities do not welcome such floating hazards, they are relatively sanguine about them. As John Murray, the maritime director of the International Chamber of Shipping, says, the chance of a collision with another ship is low. "Shipping containers and adrift crafts don't creep up on ships," he says. "Navigation warnings from other vessels and radar usually ensure they are spotted from quite a distance away. Ships navigate around them."
Still, though, the notion of a phantom vessel, disconnected from the world, is discomfiting. The most famous example is, of course, the Mary Celeste, the 100ft brigantine which was found floating, crewless but well-provisioned, in the Atlantic Ocean in 1872. Alas, though, the "ghost ship" is not a phenomena confined to the history textbook.
In June last year, the 69ft Nina, heading to Sydney from New Zealand, was caught in a storm. A text sent by the crew soon after indicated that they had survived unscathed. A search of nearly 500,000 square nautical miles has failed to find the vessel, however. A grainy image, which some have suggested may be the ship, was taken off the coast of New Zealand. It has not been seen since. The family of those on board have financed a private rescue but to little avail.
A Japanese fishing boat, the Ryou-Un Maru, also spent 11 months at sea without a crew. After slipping its moorings in March 2011 during the Tohoku earthquake, it drifted into US waters in April 2012. As it had been assumed sunk by the Japanese authorities, its registration had been cancelled and legally it no longer had an owner. The Americans took a pragmatic approach and sunk it in the Gulf of Alaska.
In some cases, though, when a small ship is being towed for scrap, breaks loose and cannot be caught, it is simply not reported and becomes an unquantified hazard for the shipping industry. Pleasure-boat cruisers and cross-channel ferrygoers need not worry unduly then. As Murray makes clear, such incidents are rare: "It would be inaccurate to think that ships are navigating through a thicket of abandoned boats."
Phantom ships are certainly an eerie spectacle but the chances, for most of us, of ever being visited by a ghost ship are slim to none.
"Made a little walk around the MV Lyubov orlova on the way to Antarctica. At the moment it is drifting around the North Atlantic. Abandoned with only rats as passengers."