One of the owners of the MV Lyubov Orlova is now looking to tug companies in Ireland to possibly intercept the drifting cruise ship.
Reza Shoeybi, who bought the ship with his uncle, is now solely making the decisions on the ship’s fate, though his uncle is still a silent partner. And as the Orlova drifts closer and closer to Ireland and further and further from Newfoundland and Labrador, the next chapter of the misguided salvage job may be written from across the pond.
“I’m not having any luck here,” says Shoeybi with regards to finding a ship willing to chase the Orlova.
He says he is still in communication with one tug company on this side of the ocean, but with the weather not likely to unclench its fists for some time yet, the Orlova could soon be making headlines in the Irish papers.
Shoeybi is currently staying on the Charlene Hunt in St. John’s harbour, the tug Shoeybi brought up from Rhode Island to guide the Orlova down to a Dominican Republic scrap yard.
The towline between the vessels broke a day after leaving St. John’s and the Charlene Hunt was ordered back to port by Transport Canada out of concern for the vessel and crew.
Still, Shoeybi maintains the Hunt could have done the job under different circumstances.
“I probably could have done it with this boat if it was in summertime,” he says, standing next to the tug.
That’s a statement a number of people would likely disagree with.
Mac Mackay writes several blogs including “Shipfax” and “Tugfax.” He’s also a guest on CBC Radio’s “Information Morning” out of Halifax, N.S., every second week for a segment called “Harbour Watch.”
In a previous interview with The Telegram, Mackay said he was astounded to see the Charlene Hunt in Halifax when it arrived last fall.
On Tuesday, as the Orlova drifted further eastward across the Atlantic, its story finally headed inland, all the way to Parliament Hill.
The federal Opposition weighed in saying it is irresponsible of Canada to abandon the derelict Russian cruise ship as it drifts in the North Atlantic.
NDP transport critic Olivia Chow said Transport Canada never should have allowed the Lyubov Orlova to be towed out of port in
St. John’s in the dead of winter.
Tug’s appearance questionable
Looking at the Charlene Hunt tied up on the southside of St. John’s harbour, the boat certainly doesn’t scream dependability.
With garbage bags strewn about the deck and plywood up to one of the wheelhouse windows, the boat barely seems able to fight the wind cutting at her as it blows through the narrows, let alone what is waiting out to sea through the rocky harbour gates.
As Shoeybi speaks, several people watch from the wheelhouse. Last weekend the Transportation Safety Board sent down a crew to do an investigation as to why the tow line snapped between the Hunt and the Orlova in the first place.
Transport Canada also did an inspection of the tug after it ordered it back to port.
The supply vessel the Atlantic Hawk eventually got a line on the Orlova when it drifted within 11 kilometres of the Hibernia platform. The tow was transferred to another ship. but that line also failed and the Orlova was free once again, this time in international waters.
Transport Canada now says inspectors identified deficiencies with the Charlene Hunt and the tug can’t leave until those issues are corrected, it is reinspected and Transport Canada releases it from detention.
Shoeybi says it has been recommended he not try and finish the job of getting the Orlova to the Dominican with the Charlene Hunt. However, he says since the Orlova is in international waters, he has the right to do as we wishes once he leaves port.
“Once we get out of here it’s pretty much our call,” he says.
Shoeybi adds he wouldn’t pursue the Orlova with the Hunt because of what he’s heard about the conditions on the water and the position of the Orlova.
There are questions as to why the Charlene Hunt was allowed to leave port with the Orlova undertow in the first place when it seems, in retrospect, that the mission was doomed.
For his part, Shoeybi put faith in a positive outlook.
“We were positive throughout the whole thing because everything seemed to work out even though there was a lot of things against us,” he says.
That may be something of an understatement.
Mackay told The Telegram the tug was in such a state of distress when it made its way into Halifax from Rhode Island before striking out for St. John’s that pumps were air-dropped to the boat to keep it afloat, and the entire crew except for the captain and engineer were evacuated by the coast guard.
Shoeybi says they made the attempt to tow the Orlova with the Hunt on Jan. 23 because they were feeling pressure from parties he doesn’t want to name to get the Orlova out of here.
The derelict cruise ship sat in
St. John’s harbour for two years.
Following the sale of the ship to Shoeybi and his uncle, the port authority told The Telegram they were out more than $100,000 for fees the ship incurred during its stay, but would never collect.
No doubt, a lot of groups and individuals wanted the derelict cruise ship, that was found to be rat infested, out of the harbour.
Shoeybi says he figured if they took enough precautionary measures, things would work out. He and his uncle bought the ship for $275,000.
He says the Orlova is insured, but only for a total loss under tow. The ship may be decrepit, but at this point it’s not considered a total loss and, of course, isn’t under tow.
The Lyubov Orlova was insured for US$850,000, says Shoeybi.
Shoeybi says unless another group comes forward with an interest in the Orlova, the ship is still destined for the scrap yard.
They expected to make between $700,000 and $800,000 when they scapped the Orlova depending on metals markets.
In the meantime, he has to get the Charlene Hunt back to its owner Hunt Tugs & Barges, Inc. in Rhode Island, the company it was charted from.
When questioned about whether he’ll bounce back financially from his ordeal with the Orlova, he pauses.
“It’s going to be tough,” he says, but adds that he has partners and projects to help him gain his buoyancy.
As for the Orlova?
Monday, the vessel was approximately 330 nautical miles northeast of St. John’s and still at the mercy of the ocean currents.
“It’s in God’s hands right now so I can’t say nothing,” Shoeybi says.
Regardless of one’s faith, both environmental groups and concerned citizens are starting to wonder whose hand should be guiding the Lyubov Orlova as it continues to drift through international waters.
— With files from The Canadian Press