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The Lyubov Orlova : A ghost ship in north Atlantic : A new flying dutchman ?

Lyubov Orlova Liner (7)The maritime world is a fascinating world which provides us with unusual stories, that only the sea has the secret. But these stories can also say a lot about the world in which we live. Undeniably, the Lyubov Orlova story is one of them.

Her story is indeed not trivial since this ship has become a ghost ship, lost in the North Atlantic, sometimes spotted, sometimes lost ..... a sort of "flying dutchman" of the twentieth century and also becoming a caricature of excesses and abuses of the maritime world.
The history of the ship began nearly 40 years ago. Ship icebreaker of class mariya Yermolova designed for the Arctic and Antarctic cruises, it was built by the shipyard Brodogadimoste Titovo Kraljevica (now Croatia), on behalf of the Russian company Far Eastern Shipping Company (FESCO). It sails under the flag of Soviet and Russian until August 1996, then fly the Maltese flag for 13 years and finally the Cook Islands from 2009. However, and despite several changes of ownership, it will operated during many years by the same company, Lubov Orlova Shipping Co Ltd who chartered regularly the ship tour operators as Marine Expeditions, Quark Expeditions or Cruise North Expeditions. In 1981 she even received the medal of the Order of Friendship of Nations for participating in a rescue operation.
Apart a grounding in September 2006 on Deception Island in Antarctica, the real troubles for the ship begins at the end of September 2010 when a lien was put on her in the Canadian port of St. John's by his charterer (Cruise North Expeditions) who claimed to the Russian owner the amount of USD 250 000 for cancelled cruises, amount to which it had quickly to add the wages of the 51 crew members, unpaid for several months.

Following is common to all abandoned ships in the ports. Without any news from the owner, the crew did nothing to eat quickly, or what to do on board to maintain the ship in condition, leaving them to their fate. As usual in similar cases, the help came from the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) and local people. After several weeks of waiting and negotiating, most of the crew will finally be able to leave the ship in November 2010. Only a few men remain some time on board in order to keep the ship in working condition but they also leave the ship a few weeks later.Lyubov Orlova Liner (42)
At this date, the vessel is completely abandoned. A sale to Norwegian interests will be mentioned but it will have to wait the end of 2011 to see the things began to change with the sale or the ship (upon request of Port of Saint John for their port dues remained unpaid). This sale, ordered by a Canadian Judge in November 2011, was operated via Aylmer Gribble's Canadian brokerage firm Gibson Global Inc, It was finalised in January 2012 with the confirmation of sale of the liner to the NEPTUNE INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING COMPANY Ltd, based in the Virgin Islands British, for the sum of USD 275,000.
Although this sum is quite far from covering the whole sum of the owner's debt (nearly USD 750,000, divided approximately as follows: USD 250 000 in respect of the claim of Cruise North Expeditions, USD 300,000 under wage claims, and USD 200 000 for port fees), it seems that nobody objected to the sale is finally approved by a federal judge in Canada January 18, 2012. It must be recognized that, in any case, opposition would not have solved anything and the creditors would have been unpaid and the ship would remain at dock for many months, for the greatest misfortune of local authorities.

Needless to say that these authorities were pleased with the ship's departure which should have taken place before the end of February 2012, deadline set by the judge, at this detail that the broker in charge of the sale could delay the departure at a later date if he considered that some additional weeks of berth were necessary to carry out the necessary repairs to enable the ship to leave the port. Thus the preparations for the departure of the vessel will take nearly a year, with new adventures such as these engineers and mechanics appointed by the new owner to prepare the ship and who quickly left the line on the grounds that the ship was infested with rats. Actually, the new owners seem quite unfamiliar with the procedures and constraints of such a vessel restart after nearly two years off without any maintenance.
Lyubov Orlova Liner (35)At this date, no one has illusions about the fate of the ship. Its new owners, who are not ship-owners, clearly indicated that the ship was intended to be demolished and they hoped to earn a lot of money with the demolition, (multiplying by three the amount paid for the ship, depending of the scrap value estimated at nearly 800,000 dollars ....).
The last destination chosen for the ship is the Dominican Republic, where two sites seems able to carry out this operation (one upstream from the capital, Santo Domingo Este on the left bank of the Ozama River and one in Las Calderas Bay to west of the capital, where CIRAMAR, the owner of the shipyard would have two dry docks ide 105 and 135 m and three floating docks 60 m, 155 m and 173 m). The option of a beaching and a demolition "in situ" was not excluded.
The distance is about 1800 nautical miles (3300 km) and takes between 18 and 25 days (at a speed of 4 knots). To take him to his final destination, the new owners are going to use a tug, the old vessel being unable to rally on his owns the Dominican Republic (both for technical reasons related to multiple constraints restarting the all propulsion systems and auxiliary as safety and arming the ship with a crew).
For the towing operation, the NEPTUNE INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING COMPANY Ltd will choose the CHARLENE HUNT, a tug owned by Tugs & Barges Hunt, Inc. based in Rhode Island. It is always easy to rewrite history but the sight of the tug is sufficient to itself and is already generating questions about the convoy chances to reach "safely" the Dominican Republic ". Actually, the tug seems to come directly from a maritime museum. She was built in 1962, (twelve years more than the ship she is supposed to tow) and to be frank, there are some doubts about the one of the two which is really intended to be scraped.
Charlene Hunt Tug (6)More seriously, after 51 years of loyal service, a tug like the CHARLENE HUNT has note his nominal power and is not able to tow in the same conditions at she did it during the first years of his life (whatever maintenance that its owners have done on her). To close with the choice of the tug, and we will have perhaps some answers the investigation by the Office of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, it is possible that the involvement of the tug in this case is more complex than the various protagonists kindly tell us so far. Actually, It seems that the tug was on sale a few weeks ago, especially on the Internet, in the amount of USD 135,000; Several press articles also mention the new owners of Lyubov Orlova as "owners" of "Charlene Hunt." The owner of Tug & Barges Hunt Company does not say something fundamentally different when it states that the tug was chartered (...) and on a sales process at the moment he reached the port of St John. Even if it is only conjecture, we can well imagine that the shipment of Yurlov Orlova actually was a "two in one" and that the Charlene Hunt his was supposed to do his last voyage into towing the old Russian line to the Dominican Republic.
Anyway, the tug, chartered by the new owners of Lyybov Orlova (Reza Hussein and Shoeybi Humayuni), is in the port of Saint John the 9 December 2012 after a stop (more or less forced) in Halifax for safety reasons after having suffered damage due to severe weather conditions. According to the blogger Mac Mackay (TugFax), the Charlene Hunt was in a so poor condition that it took over a week to the owner to carry out necessary repairs before to be authorized to leave the port. An inspection was carried out under "Port State Control" (Paris MoU) but the tug will not be subject to detention (....). Pictures taken at Saint John a few days later actually show a ship with missing windows on the bridge (replaced by plywood) bins on deck, etc ...
On his arrival in Saint John, it is now confirmed that the Lyubov Orlova will leave the port. According to the owner, the ship was surveyed at the request of the insurers convoy (we can suppose that the purpose of this survey was to prepare the ship to travel without crew and thus plug the holes, put in a fixed position rudders, to calibrate the equipment likely to move, control fasteners, anchors, drop, etc ....).
Lyubov Orlova Liner (57)January 23, 2013, is the D day after nearly 16 months of immobilisation. The Lyubov Orlova, towed by the Charlene Hunt, left the port of Saint John, at the satisfaction of the local port authorities and the Ministry of Transport ; Such a satisfaction that there is no trace of any formal authorization of departure and/or an inspection to ensure that the convoy was able to reach Santo Domingo (....). The forthcoming report of the Bureau of Safety Canada will clarify these points, but it should have been a good idea as just a day after departure, the tow line broke. The efforts to recover the ship adrift in waves of 3 meters failed and the Canadian Coast Guard ordered to the Charlene Hunt to return to the port the 27 January 2013 "for security reasons". This question of the fact that this has been allowed to tow the Lyubov in winter in rough seas comes very quickly controversy in Canada, forcing the Canadian government and the Ministry of Transport to communicate and initiate an investigation on this incredible story.
The story doesn't stop, however, and the vicissitudes of the Lyubov Orlova will still continue for nearly a month before its trace is completely lost (as far as we know).
Without tug, without propulsion, unmanned and without GPS beacon (The beacon installed on board at the time of departure revealed to be off), with only automatic distress beacons installed on board, the Lyubov Orlova begins to drift in North Atlantic. For nearly a week, nobody was interested in his fate, except perhaps his owner, but with only their old tug, it is difficult to imagine how they would have been in a position to recover their ship. Moreover, it is quite unclear if they were (or are) interested in in recovering their ship, as she is covered by "Total Loss Only" insurance policy.
Anyway, we have some information about the ship again on January 30 as it approaches the FPSO "Sea Rose" (operated by Husky Energy)Atlantic Hawk (6) positioned on the Hibernia oil field. The oil company immediately sends a tug, the Atlantic Hawk, which spend a tow line on the ship and tow it away from platforms and FPSO. Some hours later, the Lyubov Orlova is no longer a threat to the company's facilities. The Atlantic Hawk keeps the Lyubov Orlova in tow until March 1st in the afternoon. The tow is transferred to the Maersk Challenger, another tug chartered by the Canadian Ministry of Transport. Unfortunately, the tow line breaks 20 minutes later due to weather conditions (waves of seven meters and winds reaching 140 km / hour) will not allow the tug to recover the ship and give it a new trailer.
After this episode of the Atlantic Hawk and Maersk Challenger, the ship is left to his fate, far enough away from the platform. From the Canadian authorities point of view, the liner cannot be regarded as a threat for navigation, is not as sinking ship, is not an immediate danger for the environment and primarily, the ship is outside the territorial waters under Canadian jurisdiction, which has the huge benefit of transferring all obligations of the shipowner and the State flag. In other words, Canada says that it is not his problem anymore and leaves the countries on the other side of the Atlantic to take care of the ship, if by chance he does not sink before.
The problem is that nobody cares the ship (except the owner and perhaps their insurers) because the ship suffers from another defect; it has almost no value and consequently, it has few chances to attract the attention of the salvage companies. To be frank, it seems that no such call was made by the owners but it is also unlikely that they get answers. Indeed, given the principle of "no cure no pay" prevailing in this type of operation and which allows the salvor to be paid on the salved values, it can be understandable that they do not incur costs to find a ship with no value, and even using the SCOPIC Clause (if applicable), there is no chance that a private operator meets the appeal; Moreover, in this case, the salvors would have the risk to be unpaid by the shipowner or the insurers. Actually, regarding the scrap value of the ship, the amount guaranteed by the insurance policy should be necessarily limited (probably equal to the ship value but no much more) and would not cover the expended sums of search, rescue and towing such a vessel in the North Atlantic. Additional cover can be purchased from a P&I but nothing indicates that the vessel entered in a P&I club for his last trip.
Maersk Challenger (3)And it can be admitted that the financial resources Neptune International Shipping Company Ltd should be near zero. It remains the possibility of a recovery action against the tug (owner or charterer), but should be also limited by the value and tonnage of the tug, and the applicable liability limits are also very low (except to prove that the state of the tug is likely to deprive the owner or charterer of the benefit liability limits in force under the LLMC Convention).
Anyway, as notes Me Quimbert, "it is the liability to those who are responsible for the drift, ie the towing company, the flag State, the owner of the wreck, the insurance to take the necessary measures. In the absence of an international police force. Nobody" can compel the involved parties to intervene and to danger to navigation. But it is their own interest" because if an accident were to happen, they would not fail to be prosecuted".
But "outside territorial waters, it is difficult to" compel them to intervene, says lawyer. "There is no international police and there is no international intervention fund" that can be mobilized".
During more than two weeks, nothing happens. No news from the ship. Reza Shoeybi, one of the new owners seems to be all alone on his old tug (on which he seems now to live). Interviewed several times by local media, he acknowledged that to convoy the ship at this time of the year was probably not the best idea that he and his associates have had in the management of their expedition. He also tries to involve the local authorities in this disaster. He considers that they are also liable, both leaving the ship to leave if it appeared she was not really able to join safely Santo Domingo, but also by leaving the ship after the break of the trailer which bound him to Maersk Challenger and with so poor explanations (bad weather and ship in international waters).

This point of view is shared by some associations as Robin des Bois who emphasizes that beyond the legal obligation, there was a moral obligation to worry about of the ship and not to let it drift under the pretext that was no longer in waters under Canadian jurisdiction.
Actually, it is difficult to believe that a tug as Maersk Challenger would not have been able to follow the Lyubov Orlova and place a new trailer as soonCharlene Hunt Tug (13) as weather conditions permit. But this option meant that the Lyubov Orlova was ordered to return to Canada, that the authorities of the port of Saint John were immediately rejected.
The Lyubov Orlova reappears on the radar screens on February 23 at 12:49 am with the activation of a distress beacon registered to the ship. This beacon, which activates automatically upon contact with water, fears of a sunk as there are icebergs in the area. It is also possible that this beacon was in one of the life boat, which fall or suffer a violent contact with an object or the sea, could have cause the activation. To date, no other information was released about the further positions given by the beacon.
However, more information will come via the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGIA). This U.S. government agency (One of the missions is to provide global maritime geospatial intelligence in support of national security objectives including safety of navigation) publishes on a daily basis "Navigational Warning" informing about ship in distress, objects and events that can pose an immediate danger to navigation.
Thus, in its issue of February 24 (24 hours after the onset of the distress beacon), mention is made of the ship in the NAVAERA IV 90/13 (1. DERELICT M / V Orlova LYUBOV ADRIFT VICINITY - 49-22.70 N 044-51.34W REPORTS TO CANADIAN COAST GUARD). It will be possible to follow the ship for three days, until 26 February 2013 and NAVAREA IV 113/2013 gave us the last known position (at least public) of the vessel (1. DERELICT 295 FOOT M / V Orlova LYUBOV ADRIFT IN 52-10.1N 035-30.2W AT 252054Z FEB. 2. CANCEL NAVAREA IV 109/13).
Since then, nothing, except press articles stating that the vessel's drift could lead to Icelandic or Norwegian coasts.
Lyubov Orlova Liner (48)For nearly two weeks there is officially no news of the ship and its drift. Each passing day makes a sunk more likely, although the areas in which it is supposed to drift currently are less crowded than usual because of the ice breakup.
The Lyubov Orlova is probably destined to become a ghost ship as it has existed for many centuries. No doubt he will be seen in the mist; Perhaps the ship will have the same fate as the SS Baychimo, abandoned by its crew in 1931 and wandered for nearly 38 years before disappearing forever.
At this stage, what to retain about this incredible adventure expect that this raises many questions which raises at each wreck or each abandon ship in a port.
In the disorder, we can talk about the role of the Flag State, completely absent (but is it really a surprise ?), the role of the port of departure, and incidentally of the coastal State (which is the same in this case) in the ship's departure, inspections, export of waste (Clemenceau case), the role of insurers during the inspection prior to export of vessels for demolition (export of waste), etc., pursuant to the statement of Stockhlom 1972 environment, the responsibility of the owner and the owner of the tug, etc, etc ...
A large list that we will probably study in the next few months but it is not sure that we will have really answers to these questions. Everything changes, nothing changes ...



Nos sources pour cet article (autres que celles figurant en lien hypertexte dans le corps de l'article).



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