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Drifting Blues: The Strange Saga Of The M.V. LYUBOV ORLOVA

Posted on Thursday, February 7, 2013 by

Drifting Blues

The Strange Saga Of The m.v. LYUBOV ORLOVA


Shawn J. Dake

By rights, hardly anyone outside of the shipping industry should have ever heard of a vessel named LYUBOV ORLOVA. This small passenger ship was designed to sail primarily on short international routes for the Far Eastern Shipping Company, registered in Vladivostok, Russia. Now, at the end of a long and active career that no one could have envisioned when she was built in 1976, the ship literally finds herself adrift in a storm of controversy.

LYUBOV ORLOVA photo © Robert Young October 21, 2012

LYUBOV ORLOVA photo © Robert Young October 21, 2012

Since September, 2010 the former Soviet vessel had been laid up at St. John’s, Newfoundland in Canada. It was reportedly in very poor condition and fetched only $275,000 in scrap value when sold to a “Caribbean-based” Iranian buyer in February, 2012. The 4,251 gross ton LYUBOV ORLOVA was supposed to have left Canada in May, but the ship reportedly suffered a small fire and remained in port, delaying her date with destruction. Finally on January 23, 2013 the ship left St. John’s under tow of the American tug CHARLENE HUNT with the intended destination of the Dominican Republic. Still reluctant to be scrapped, the ship parted her tow line in rough seas the next day and remained adrift off Newfoundland. Sea conditions were 10 to 18 feet high with winds of 35 knots. Attempts to reattach a line proved fruitless and dangerous. The tug returned to port leaving her charge loose in the winter North Atlantic. As the ship was in international waters Transport Canada decided the vessel no longer came under their jurisdiction and said it was solely the owner’s responsibility.

LYUBOV ORLOVA photo © Robert Young, August 22, 2012

LYUBOV ORLOVA photo © Robert Young, August 22, 2012

On January 31st the offshore supply vessel ATLANTIC HAWK was secured to the derelict mini-liner after the ship was deemed a potential threat to drift into offshore oil rigs. However, on Monday, February 4th Transport Canada made the decision to cut her loose again. Their statement read “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.” Safety concerns were cited by Transport Canada as their reason to not pursue a salvage operation to retrieve the ship, not to mention they have no desire for the unwanted vessel to be returned to a Canadian port. As this is written, the ship is drifting in a northeasterly direction approximately 250 nautical miles east of St. John’s, Newfoundland, some 50 nautical miles outside Canada’s territorial waters. If no private or governmental entity interferes, the ship could continue drifting with the wind and currents, ending up almost anywhere around the rim of the North Atlantic. The ship’s position will continue to be monitored to avoid interference with international shipping, but for now at least, it appears the LYUBOV ORLOVA will end up being the responsibility of whatever nation’s waters she floats into, unless she sinks first.

The LYUBOV ORLOVA was built by the Brodogradiliste Titovo shipyard (Yard number 413) at Kraljevica, Yugoslavia. The ship was named after one of Russia’s most famous actresses of both theater and cinema. Fedor Shalyapin, who would later have a ship named after him as well, predicted her future as a famous actress when she was only seven years old. The ship was one of eight sisters built between 1974 and 1977 for various Soviet companies in the former Yugoslavia. The others in the class were the MARIYA YERMOLOVA, ALLA TARASOVA, KLAVDIYA YELANSKAYA, OLGA ANDROVSKAYA, OLGA SADOVSKAYA, ANTONIA NEZHDANOVA, and MARIYA SAVINA. Besides the LYUBOV ORLOVA, the MARIYA YERMOLOVA, and the ALLA TARASOVA went on to careers serving western passengers as expedition ships primarily in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. The latter became fairly well known as the CLIPPER ADVENTURER and still sails under the name SEA ADVENTURER. Since 1996 the LYUBOV ORLOVA had been owned by the Lyubov Orlova Shipping Company Ltd, of Novorossiysk and operated by a variety of charter operators. When her owner’s defaulted, the ship was sailing under charter to Cruise North Expeditions on cruise service in the Canadian Arctic. Cruise North are reportedly owed $251,000 of the $750,000 in debt claims that have piled up against the vessel. The company is owned by the Inuit, First Nations People of Canada. For the summer season 2013 they plan to operate cruises with the former sistership SEA ADVENTURER. Both vessels have also been used by Quark Expeditions in Antarctica.

The LYUBOV ORLOVA is 328 feet in length with a 53 foot beam and a draft of 15 feet. Normal passenger capacity as an expedition ship was 110 passengers. She is now drifting around the North Atlantic as a ghost ship on a final cruise, with no one aboard. Destination unknown.

22 Responses to Drifting Blues: The Strange Saga Of The M.V. LYUBOV ORLOVA

  1. Stephen

    February 7, 2013 at 10:33 pm

    What a shame if she sinks, its seems a little selfish just to cut her lines and let her drift and be a problem to another country, I take it she has toxics on board.

  2. Peter Knego

    February 7, 2013 at 11:39 pm

    Incredible story, Shawn. It is pretty shocking the Canadian government would let her be set adrift. Thanks for the post! Peter

  3. captgeo

    February 8, 2013 at 8:16 am

    If the US, UK or Canadian Navys are looking for target practise, here is a possible candidate. With a little imagination, some enterprising film company could also make some interesting movies — the possibilities are endless. It will be interesting to see where the wind and currents take her. In the meantime, mates on the North Atlantic need to read your NOTAMS and keep the radar well tuned!

  4. Hank

    February 8, 2013 at 10:06 am

    Well this borderlines on pathetic…I guess this is what would be known as a maritime epic fail.

  5. Andy

    February 8, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    So sad to hear the story of Orlova’s demise. I was fortunate to sail to Antartica and the Falkland Islands on this beautiful vessel 10 years ago to the day.

  6. Peter Knego

    February 8, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    Nice to hear some praise for this unfortunate but handsome little ship. :) — Peter

  7. Chris Ralph

    February 8, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    I worked on the Orlova for many seasons in both Antarctica and the Arctic. She was a decent ship with a decent crew. Of all the polar expedition ships out there I would say she ranks about a 6 out of 10.

    The biggest problem was always money. We got arrested all over the world. Tenerife, Ushuaia, St. John’s. And the crew were always getting stiffed by the owners over wages. It was a tough life being a Russian crew member on this ship.

    But mostly I remember the adventures, the lovely crew who always made me feel at home.

    Sad to see things wind up this way.

    But I am not surprised. There’s so much corruption in International shipping at this level.

    RIP Lyubov Orlova.

  8. alan dumelow

    February 8, 2013 at 11:57 pm

    I have been informed there are no persons onboard, just rats.
    Can we call her “Mary Celeste II” ??
    You’d think someone would get a line on her for salvage.

  9. PETER R

    February 9, 2013 at 6:59 am

    Peter, two questions for “The Master”

    1. Do you or anyone have the “flexible GPS” positioning for Lybuov Orlova?

    2. Can anyone identify the “pseudo” ship pictured in this announcement. I believe it is/was in Auckland NZ or Sydney AUS (because of the bridge profile)


  10. Kate

    February 10, 2013 at 11:39 am

    The ship wasn’t simply cut loose – it was done so for safety/weather reasons. According to the article linked below, she may drift towards Ireland or into the Labrador Sea. There is also a brief paragraph on the responsibility for the ship (i.e the owners, not government).

    Sad to see this happen even though she was headed for scrap


  11. lynda

    February 11, 2013 at 4:37 am

    I am a Newfoundlander, and I for one think that this vessel was given a vile injustice. The owners were 100% responsible for her demise. I was looking on Google for IMAGES FOR LYUBOV ORLOVA, and what a beautiful ship she was and I’m certain can still be given to the RIGHT owners. The people tried to made the workers that were stranded here as comfortable as they could…its a sad situation and I’m hoping and praying that someone will raise her up from the ruins.

  12. Gregory Webber

    February 13, 2013 at 5:00 am

    If this was a package in the post the delivery people would be responsible for its safe delivery ! the guys who were taken on to tow the ship are responsible for its safe delivery surely, after all they will have been paid so what happened to pride in your work (this comment is meant for the owners of the Charlene Hunt supposedly the tow ship).

  13. carew

    February 13, 2013 at 11:09 pm

    I can’t believe no one wants it as a mega-yacht conversion, since they would save millions on building the hull and superstructure.

  14. Barry Dewling

    February 15, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    At last report the location beacons placed on board have now failed. No one knows exactly the Orlova is.

  15. Martin Cummins

    February 24, 2013 at 4:01 am

    Would be great if her position and heading could be tracked by shops making reports if she is spotted. All information I have read on her read that she was a fine ship.

  16. Griff Carey

    February 26, 2013 at 8:32 am

    02-22-2013 According to data from the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency obtained by AFP, the derelict Lyubov Orlova has been spotted roughly 1,300 nautical miles off the coast of Ireland at coordinates 49-22.70N and 044-51.34W.

  17. Griff Carey

    February 26, 2013 at 8:43 am

    02-23-2013 An emergency beacon registered to the MV Lyubov Orlova has gone off, according to an official with the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Halifax.
    “It could have banged itself into operation. On the other hand maybe the vessel sank. Everything is speculation at this point,”


  18. Griff Carey

    February 28, 2013 at 10:14 am

    Sounds like she has sunk- (From the Web)
    A high-resolution satellite image taken over the co-ordinates of the transponding beacon this week captured nothing but open ocean.

  19. colin

    March 2, 2013 at 10:10 am

    I think the words to describe Transport Canada’s action would be ‘criminally negligent ‘ , no government agency should deliberately create a situation that poses a hazard to shipping! This is the most reprehensible of actions and Transport Canada should be taken to task for their decision to allow a derelict vessel to drift in the North Atlantic. As a Canadian this brings shame to me and our country! These are the same people who are getting rid of our lighthouses and this is a great travesty as well as a potential hazard to the safety of mariners. We just lost a fishing boat off Nova Scotia with a loss of life, one has to respect the sea and the inherent dangers of working there, in no way should any government increase these dangers as ours has done.

  20. heimir

    April 1, 2013 at 5:30 pm

    the ship is only about a mile from the shores of iceland

  21. Griff Carey

    April 2, 2013 at 6:02 am

    heimer, what proof do you have of your statement? There have been no documented sightings and nothing in the news since the emergency beacon went off and satellite images on the beacons last location only showed open water. There is no news on the web.

  22. Matthew hutchinson

    February 20, 2014 at 6:19 am

    Well….She is getting very close to plymouth,so in my best intrests it either sink or save.

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