Transport Canada still owed Orlova costs from owners

James McLeod
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Politicians want to know how government will recoup expenses

The Lyubov Orlova. — Telegram file photo

Last winter, when the derelict Russian cruise ship Lyubov Orlova was adrift, heading towards offshore oil installations, Transport Canada said in no uncertain terms that taxpayers would not be on the hook for costs associated with the crisis.

Seven months later, it appears that Transport Canada has made no effort at all to hold the Orlova’s owners accountable.

In a letter to the Orlova’s owner dated Jan. 30, Transport Canada assistant deputy minister Gerard McDonald said the government could go after them to pay for what happened.

“As owner of the vessel, you are responsible for it at law,” McDonald wrote. “Be advised that the Government of Canada holds you responsible for any costs and expenses that it must incur to address the current situation and will take whatever steps necessary to recover any costs incurred as a result of this exercise.”

Despite repeated requests from The Telegram, nobody from Transport Canada has been willing to do an interview.

However, in an emailed statement, a spokeswoman made it clear that they haven’t made any moves to get the Orlova’s owner to pay up.

“The costs were paid out of Transport Canada’s regular operating budget. Transport Canada is considering its options regarding pursuing the owner,” the statement said.

It is unclear at this point how much the owner would be on the hook for, but as the crisis unfolded near offshore oil production facilities last winter, Transport Canada hired a vessel to tow the Orlova, and promised to indemnify Husky Energy when one of its contractors’ vessels — the Atlantic Hawk — picked up the Orlova’s tow line.

Liberal MP Scott Simms was unimpressed with the government’s response.

“I think the government is talking tough, but I don’t think they’re that tough at all,” he said. “Anybody can talk tough.”

Location unknown

NDP transport critic Olivia Chow said that right through the process, the federal government hasn’t been living up to its responsibilities.

“Transport Canada has failed to explain why approval was given to tow in the dead of winter. No. 2, Transport Canada and the minister have failed to explain how they have no idea where the ship is anymore,” she said.

“And No. 3, it has failed in pursuing the owner of the ship on bearing any responsibility. The minister has a lot to answer for. Ultimately it’s not Transport Canada, it’s the minister, Lisa Raitt.”

The statement from Transport Canada also made it clear it does not know where the Orlova is.

The government briefly had the vessel under tow, but after the line snapped, since it was no longer heading towards offshore oil rigs, they decided not to go after it.

“Transport Canada, in consultation with its partners, decided not to pursue the drifting vessel as there were no people aboard the ship and there was a serious concern for the safety of Canadian sailors involved in any potential salvage operation. The situation was monitored very closely and advice was provided as required,” the statement said.

“Transport Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard continued to monitor the drifting vessel to verify its location and status. Transport Canada is not aware of any recent sightings of the Lyubov Orlova and the last known position of the vessel was Feb. 4, 2013, 333 nautical miles ENE of St. John’s, NL.”

The Transportation Safety Board is doing an investigation on the Charlene Hunt, the tugboat that was responsible for pulling the Orlova to the Dominican Republic for scrap, but that investigation is nowhere near completion.

Chow said she thinks Canadians will eventually get some answers.

“I have confidence in the Transportation Safety Board getting to the bottom of this. The problem is, their recommendations are regularly ignored by the minister,” she said.

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: Transport Canada, Husky Energy, Transportation Safety Board Canadian Coast Guard Dominican Republic

Geographic location: Canada

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Recent comments

  • Rich
    November 12, 2014 - 03:52

    I'm torn on this one. That's mainly because the gov of Canada stepped in to save oil rigs, which is all fine and dandy, we have people out there. However, once it was clear of the rigs, either they let it go or the rope broke and they sailed off into the sunset. I've got news for Canada, WE have fishermen and mariners out there everywhere! They just let it drift off into the darkness of the Atlantic! They consider themselves experts in this field. How come they're prosecuting the owners of the tug because the rope broke (if it did break), when they tow if off and say the rope broke from their vessel? Aren't they guilty of the same thing? Why would they let a vessel just drift off and be a danger to everybody out there? If a company did that, the government would prosecute them! Did it sink? Did they sink it? I'd like more answers on this matter. The owners of this ship are not the only questionable charaacters involved.

  • Derrick
    October 16, 2014 - 09:00

    A rat-infested ship? Consider it Canada's latest cultural contribution to the world.

  • Dolf
    October 14, 2014 - 18:03

    Canada wouldn't be this slow hunting down and prosecuting a Newfoundlander with three or four fish over his limit after a stormy session at sea in the recreational fishery. Bloody bullies.

  • Flynn
    January 24, 2014 - 13:37

    Maybe they know there's almost zero chance of collecting from a bankrupt Russian company and the lawyer costs to even attempt it would be in the hundreds of thousands.

  • Darrin O'Brie
    January 11, 2014 - 13:02

    I am a Newfoundlander born and bred, unfortunately I am a Canadian as well, we as Canadian tax payers will pay for this along with a lot of other messes that the Canadian government do not have the balls to collect on. We are a peace keeping country, every body should remember this. We as tax payers don't collect we just pay. Just saying....

  • Glenn Stockley
    January 10, 2014 - 14:36

    go ahead and collect from the russian/iranian consortium involved .....lmfao.....

  • Glenn Stockley
    January 10, 2014 - 14:35

    go ahead and collect from the russian/iranian consortium involved .....lmfao.....

  • Greg
    December 17, 2013 - 19:24

    il take a free boat... anyone wanna go looking for it with me?

    • California Pete from NFLD
      January 02, 2014 - 12:13

      Greg. I am sorry I live to far from NL or I would have taken up on your offer to salvage that hulk of scrap metal.

  • david
    December 10, 2013 - 15:27

    Worried about the money, when they pretended to turn a blind eye to the very public and deliberate abandonment of a floating garbage dump on the ocean, and left it as a navigation and environmental hazard for shipping companies and European countries to deal with. Hooray for the government of Canada, with its trademark efficiency, and such admirable priorities!

  • California Pete from NFLD
    December 10, 2013 - 13:29

    Good luck