MV Lyubov Orlova

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MV Lyubov Orlowa Petermann Island.JPG
Lyubov Orlova seen from Petermann Island.
  • Lyubovy Orlova (1976–1999)
  • Lyubov Orlova (1999–2013)
Operator: Neptune International Shipping (2012–2013)
Port of registry:
Builder: Brodogradilište 'Titovo', Kraljevica, Yugoslavia SFR Yugoslavia (now Croatia)
Yard number: 413
Launched: 1975
In service: 1976
Out of service: February 2012, to be broken up[1]
Fate: Unknown, believed sunk, last seen adrift in February 2013
General characteristics
Tonnage: 4,251 GT
Length: 295 ft (90 m)
Beam: 53 ft (16 m)
Draught: 15 ft (4.6 m)
Ice class: L3
Installed power: Diesel engines; 5,280 bhp (combined)
Propulsion: Two shafts
Speed: 11 knots (20 km/h; 13 mph)
Capacity: 110 passengers
Crew: 70 (maximum)

MV Lyubov Orlova (built as Lyubovy Orlova)[2] was[3] a 1976 Yugoslavia-built ice-strengthened Maria Yermolova-class cruise ship, which was primarily used for Antarctic cruises. After being taken out of service in 2010, she sat in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada for two years. Decommissioning was fraught with problems and the ship eventually became a floating derelict in the North Atlantic Ocean in 2013. She is believed to have sunk.[4]


Lyubov Orlova was named after the Russian film star Lyubov Orlova. The ship was built for the Far Eastern Shipping Company based at Vladivostok in the Soviet Union.[5] She served as an expedition cruise ship, like her equally unlucky sister MV Clipper Adventurer. Her hull was built to Finnish-Swedish ice class 1A, to withstand impacts with ice, and she often sailed in Antarctica and the Arctic.[6]

The ship was refurbished in 1999, and chartered by Marine Expeditions for cruises to the Antarctic Peninsula in 2000. She underwent extensive renovations in 2002 and was subsequently chartered by Quark Expeditions for the Antarctic and Cruise North Expeditions for the Arctic.[7]

Lyubov Orlova ran aground at Deception Island, Antarctica, on 27 November 2006.[8] She was towed off by the Spanish Navy icebreaker Las Palmas and made her own way to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego.



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

In September 2010, Lyubov Orlova was seized at St John's, Newfoundland, Canada, due to debts of US$251,000[9] owed to the charterer, Cruise North Expeditions, from a cruise which was cancelled because of faults with the ship. In addition, the 51 crew members had not been paid in five months.[10] The ship was impounded in Newfoundland and, in February 2012, was sold to Neptune International Shipping to be broken up.[1]

Salvage and abandonment[edit]

The derelict vessel had been tied up in St. John's harbour for over two years and was being towed to the Dominican Republic to be scrapped. The tug Charlene Hunt, owned by American tug operator Hunt Marine, was contracted to tow the ship. The day after leaving the dock, the tow line parted. The crew of the tugboat tried to reconnect the line but was hampered by 35 km/h (22 mph) winds and 3 m (9.8 ft) waves. By 28 January 2013, Lyubov Orlova was drifting slowly eastward off the southeastern end of the Avalon Peninsula in Canada.

The offshore supply vessel Atlantic Hawk, with a 157 tonne continuous bollard pull rating, under contract by Husky Energy, was tasked with regaining control of the drifting vessel, which was a risk to oil and gas operations in the region. On 1 February 2013, Transport Canada announced that on 31 January, Atlantic Hawk had successfully gained control of Lyubov Orlova.

Once in international waters, 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, giving safety concerns as their reason for not pursuing a salvage operation.[11]

The ship was located on 4 February, approximately 250 nautical miles east of St. John's, (approximately 50 nautical miles outside Canada's territorial waters) and drifting in a northeasterly direction. She could have ended up almost anywhere from the Norwegian Arctic to western Africa, or stuck in the middle of the North Atlantic Gyre. Transport Canada reiterated that the owner of the vessel remained responsible for her movements, and measures had been taken to monitor the position of the drifting ship.[12]

On 23 February, according to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Lyubov Orlova was spotted at roughly 1300 nautical miles from the Irish coast.[13] A week later, the ship was the subject of news reports in Ireland and Iceland, and a caution to smaller vessels was issued.[14] On 1 March, Irish media reported that a signal from the vessel's emergency position-indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) was received from 700 nautical miles off the Kerry coast, still in international waters. An EPIRB starts transmitting only when the device is exposed to water, leading experts to speculate that the ship may have sunk.[15] The Irish Air Corps was expected to continue to monitor the region.[16][17]

A review published in October 2013 cites the receipt of two EPIRB distress signals from Lyubov Orlova in mid-ocean, one on 23 February and another on 12 March.[18]


The ship is believed to have sunk in international waters after the EPIRB distress signals were activated in early 2013.[19][20]

Tabloid speculation[edit]

In January 2014, there was speculation based on an interview with a salvager in the British tabloid The Sun that the ship might be nearing the coast of England and be infested with cannibal rats. The rumours were subsequently debunked.[21][22][23]

In November 2017, the British tabloid the Daily Star speculated that wreckage buried in sand on the beach at Coronado, California might be the missing MV Lyubov Orlova,[24] but the Coronado wreck is the SS Monte Carlo.[25][26]


News coverage by the CBC and other news sources inspired the Canadian rock band Billy Talent to write the song "Ghost Ship of Cannibal Rats" for their sixth studio album, Afraid Of Heights.[27]


  1. ^ a b Equasis (registration required)
  2. ^ "Vessel's Details". Russian Maritime Register of Shipping. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  3. ^ "Canadian TSB reports on loss of tow by 1962-built U.S. tug". Marine Log. 2014-06-20. Retrieved 22 June 2014.
  4. ^ "Cannibal rat-infested ghost ship likely sunk: experts". NY Daily News. Retrieved 2018-03-23.
  5. ^ "Lyubov Orlova". adventures in*. Archived from the original on 8 July 2011.
  6. ^ "Lyubov Orlova". Adventure Smith Explorations. Retrieved 7 May 2011.
  7. ^ "Lyubov Orlova, Antarctic Peninsula". Last Frontiers. Retrieved 7 May 2011.
  8. ^ "Cruise Ship MS Lyubov Orlova Runs Aground Needing Rescue In Antarctica". CruiseBruise. Archived from the original on 7 March 2007. Retrieved 7 May 2011.
  9. ^ Cox, Martin (1 October 2010). "Lyubov Orlova Detained — Updated". Maritime Matters: Shipping News. Retrieved 7 May 2011.
  10. ^ "Dozens of Russians stranded in St. John's". CBC News. 30 September 2010. Retrieved 7 May 2011.
  11. ^ Tu Thanh Ha (3 February 2013). "Cruise ship without crew abandoned in stormy North Atlantic". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  12. ^ "Russian ghost ship discovered off Ireland". The Advertiser. AFP. 22 February 2013.
  13. ^ Pennell, Josh (23 February 2013). "Orlova's emergency beacon activated". The Weekend Telegram. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
  14. ^ Jón Pétur Jónsson (28 February 2013). "Hefur þú séð Lyubov Orlova?" [Have you seen the Lyubov Orlova?]. Morgunblaðið (in Icelandic). Sagan segir að skipið reki nú í áttina til Noregs með fullfermi af rottum.
  15. ^ "Russian 'ghost ship' vanishes again". USA Today. Newser. 27 May 2013.
  16. ^ Rogers, Stephen (1 March 2013). "Drifting Russian ship may have sunk 700 miles off coast". Irish Examiner.
  17. ^ "Russisch cruiseschip nog steeds spoorloos". De Telegraaf (in Dutch). 22 April 2013. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  18. ^ Fisher, Richard (20 December 2013) [5 October 2013]. "How did we lose a 1400-tonne ocean liner?". New Scientist.
  19. ^ "Atlantic ghost ship has probably sunk, says analyst". BBC. 24 January 2014.
  20. ^ "Officials believe rat-infested 'ghost ship' has sunk". Fox News. 26 January 2014.
  21. ^ Eveleth, Rose (23 January 2014). "No, an Abandoned Ship Full of Diseased Rats Is Not Floating Towards Britain". Smithsonian.
  22. ^ "No sign of 'rat-infested ghost ship' Lyubov Orlova off UK". BBC News. 23 January 2014.
  23. ^ "Lyubov Orlova: Ghost ship carrying cannibal rats 'could be heading for Britain'". The Independent. 23 January 2014.
  24. ^ Ikonen, Charlotte (19 November 2017). "'Ghost ship' washed up on US beach 'remains of missing Russian cruise ship'". Daily Star.
  25. ^ "The Amazing Shipwreck At Coronado Beach Is Exposed For A Short Time!". There San Diego. 28 February 2017.
  26. ^ Terry, Mick (21 November 2017). "Shipwreck discovered off the coast of California may be former mafia casino". Yachting & Boating World.
  27. ^ "Rat-infested ship abandoned in St. John's inspires Ontario band Billy Talent song". CBC News. 18 September 2018.

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