Russian ghost ship may be on ocean floor after trail of sightings goes cold

This undated handout picture depicts the former Russian cruise ship MV Lyubov Orlova.

This undated handout picture depicts the former Russian cruise ship MV Lyubov Orlova.

A Russian ghost ship that has been drifting around in the Atlantic Ocean after a tow line snapped has not been spotted in months, leaving some to speculate that it may be resting at the bottom of the ocean, leaking toxic waste.

The Canadian Coast Guard has told CBC News that it has not received any reported sightings of the MV Lyubov Orlova since March 12.

The MV Lyubov Orlova — named after an iconic Russian film actress — was being towed from Canada to a scrapyard in the Dominican Republic in January when a cable snapped, leaving the 295-foot vessel adrift. A brief effort to re-secure the boat was abandoned days later due to rough seas.

In March, one of the ship’s emergency radio beacons emitted a signal – which could have been activated after hitting water or an object -- at a location more than 800 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, CBC News reports.

The signal led Irish Coast Guard officials to believe that the ship had sunk, the Irish Examiner reports.

According to Robin du Bois, a French environmental organization, the ship poses a health and safety threat if it is under water.

"In case of a collision or sinking or any accident, the Lyubov Orlova will immediately release fuel … other toxic liquids, asbestos ... mercury and other non-degradable floating waste," the group said in a statement, according to LiveScience.

Nine days after its initial departure, the MV Lyubov Orlova was reportedly spotted by the Atlantic Hawk, an oil platform supply vessel that was able to intercept and briefly secure the Lyubov Orlova until Feb. 4. But Transport Canada — Canada’s transportation authority — then ordered it be cut loose since the ship had left the country’s waters and was in potentially dangerous seas with waves of up to 23 feet and 80 mph wind gusts.

“Continued efforts to tow the Lyubov Orlova would have caused unacceptable risk to the crews of the towing operation,” Transport Canada spokeswoman Marie-Eve Higo wrote in an email to The Globe and Mail.

The agency said the ship’s owner was now responsible for its movements.

“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 in February.

The owner of the ship, according to court records cited by The Globe and Mail, is Hussein Humayuni, owner of Neptune International Shipping Inc.

The ship’s current status is not the first time it has made headlines. Due to a reported financial dispute between Cruise North Expeditions, which wanted to charter the ice-fortified ship for summer cruises in the Arctic Ocean, the vessel was seized in St. John’s when it arrived in September 2010. Local residents reportedly donated food, clothing and other necessities to the stranded crew of 44 until they could be repatriated to Russia three months later.

Last April, the U.S. Coast Guard cutter sank a Japanese ghost ship in the Gulf of Alaska. The ship had been drifting across the Pacific since the 2011 tsunami, and was sunk after salvage efforts failed.'s Joshua Rhett Miller contributed to this report.