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The MV Lyubov Orlova has been floating abandoned in the Atlantic for over a year now. Photo by: Wiki

Ship full of cannibal rats may be headed for Ireland, again

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The MV Lyubov Orlova has been floating abandoned in the Atlantic for over a year now. Photo by: Wiki

The MV Lyubov Orlova has been floating abandoned in the Atlantic for over a year now.

The MV Lyubov Orlova, a 295-ft Soviet-era cruise ship that has been adrift in the North Atlantic since January 2013, is once again said to be near the coast of Scotland or Ireland.

The derelict vessel was abandoned at sea early last year when the towline that was pulling it from St. Johns in Newfoundland to the Dominican Republic snapped. The ship was on its way to be sold for scrap metal, so no one was on board – save a population of rats, which, if the ship has not yet sunk, will have resorted to cannibalism, experts say.

The Lyubov Orlova also poses a less gruesome but more immediate danger to British and Irish ships and fishing vessels, which could run into it in conditions of poor visibility.

The Orlova was built in 1976 in Yugoslavia and was named for a Russian film star. It was used for years as an Arctic cruise ship, until it was seized in Newfoundland by Cruise North Expeditions for debts owed by its owners. It then sat by the dock in St. Johns for two years before being sold to a scrap merchant.

It broke away from tugboat the Charlene Hunt one day after leaving Newfoundland, and crewmembers were unsuccessful in their efforts to reconnect the line. Another vessel was tasked by Transport Canada with regaining control of the Orlova, and briefly did so on Feb 1, 2013, before it was cut loose in international waters.

Transport Canada then announced that because of safety concerns it “decided not to pursue the drifting vessel,” and that it was  “very unlikely that the vessel will re-enter waters under Canadian jurisdiction.”

The Irish Coast Guard picked up a mid-Atlantic distress signal from one of the ship's alarms in February 2013, but satellite found no trace of  it. A second alarm was picked up two weeks later.

The Coast Guard believes the first signal came from a lifeboat that tipped overboard, but says it is possible the second alarm came from the ship itself. The alarms activate when they come into contact with water. Because the Orlova has no other transmitters, it is impossible to know for certain whether it has sunk or is still floating off the coast.

Chris Reynolds, head of the Irish Coast Guard, told The Independent it was important to still consider the ghost ship a threat:

“There have been huge storms in recent months but it takes a lot to sink a vessel as big as that,” he said. “We must stay vigilant.”

On a somewhat positive note, the ‘biohazard catastrophe’ will almost certainly be avoided if there are only two rats left on the ship by the time it makes land:

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