Ghost ship: Abandoned Russian cruise liner adrift for weeks in North Atlantic

A Russian cruise ship with only rats aboard is floating aimlessly in the North Atlantic, hundreds of miles off the coast of Newfoundland after breaking loose from a tugboat.

The MV Lyubov Orlova — named after an iconic Russian film actress — was being towed to a scrapyard in the Dominican Republic 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. As of Tuesday, the ship was roughly 760 miles off the coast of Newfoundland and 1,125 miles from Ireland, a U.S. intelligence agency told

“We continue to receive information about the ship’s location, and will issue message when needed to facilitate safe navigation,” Christine Phillips, a spokeswoman for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

The 37-year-old, Yugoslavia-built ship is slowly floating toward Europe. Phillips said she was unaware of any government-led efforts by any country to secure or salvage the Orlova.


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Nine days after its initial departure, the ship 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 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 last month.

The ship, at the time, was roughly 50 nautical miles outside of Canadian waters and was moving northeasterly, according to the Transport Canada statement.

Phillips said the Canadian Coast Guard later relayed the location of the derelict vessel to NGA officials. NGA officials, in turn, informed mariners through the World Wide Navigational Warning Service on Feb. 19, Phillips said.

The owner of the ship, according to court records cited by The Globe and Mail, is Hussein Humayuni, owner of Neptune International Shipping Inc. A message seeking comment from Neptune officials by was not immediately returned on Wednesday.

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.

Barista Uno, a blogger who writes about maritime issues, said the ship likely poses no danger as long as it is far from land or shipping lanes.

"I'm not sure if phantom ships pose any more danger than manned ships," Uno said. "If out in the open sea, the phantom ship would have to be towed to harbor by an oceangoing tug, as its engine, navigational equipment etc., are likely to have problems. The question is, who would bother to recover the ship if it is in international waters and the legal owners are no longer interested in the asset?"

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.