Weighing 4,251 tons and measuring 295 feet from stem to stern, the Yugoslav-built MV Lyubov Orlova was one tough cookie. The ice-strengthened Mariya Yermolova-class cruise ship was launched in 1976 with the express purpose of exploiting the lucrative Antarctic and Alaskan cruise market, which it did quite successfully… for a while, anyway. Originally owned by the Soviet Union-based Far East Shipping Company, the Lyubov Orlova began to show her age in the early 2000’s and by early 2010 the ship had been seized and impounded in St. Johns, Newfoundland due to mounting debts.
In February of 2012, the Lyubov Orlova was sold to Neptune International Shipping who planned to tow it down to the Dominican Republic to be broken up for scrap. Legalities being what they are, the ship and its tugboat tow didn’t get under way until late January of 2013. Newfoundland winter weather being what it is, the tow rope snapped after just one day at sea and the Lyubov Orlova was on its own, unpowered and at the mercy of wind and waves. Declaring the vessel to be a danger to nearby offshore oil platforms, Transport Canada then sent another tug out to lasso the rogue ship, tow it further east into international waters, and cut it loose… seriously!
The ship was last seen on February 23rd of 2013 drifting 1,300 miles off the western coast of Ireland. On March 1st, a signal was received from the Lyubov Orlova’s emergency position-indicating radio beacon indicating it was 700 nautical miles off the Kerry coast. Since EPIRBs are programmed to broadcast automatically when exposed to seawater, it’s presumed the ship may have sunk. The keywords are “may” and “presumed”… it could still be out there, a real ghost ship!