The tug Charlene Hunt shouldn’t have been towing the infamous rusting hulk Lyubov Orlova, concludes a Transprotation Safety Report into the fiasco.
The tugboat Charlene Hunt(front) tows the Lyubov Orlova out of St. John's harbour in this file photo from 2013. Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram
In late January 2013, federal officials got worried when pictures taken by the coast guard vessel Cape Roger showed the derelict Russian cruise ship Lyubov Orlova within line of sight of the Hibernia oil platform.
The ship had been under tow by the tug Charlene Hunt to its supposed scrapyard fate in the Dominican Republic when a cable broke Jan. 24, 2013.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) launched an investigation on the Charlene Hunt and the result of it was made public today.
Among the TSB report’s overall findings:
• Available guidelines respecting the design and construction of towing arrangements were not followed.
• The towing arrangement was inadequate for the intended voyage.
• As the tug and tow rounded Cape Race, Newfoundland and Labrador, it was exposed to wind and sea conditions that eventually caused the towing arrangement to fail.
At the time it was contracted by owners of the Lyubov Orlova, the Charlene Hunt was near the end of its life cycle and had been out of service for most of the two years prior to its voyage to St. John’s from New Bedford, Mass., where its crew was from.
The TSB report found there was no adequate voyage planning by the tug’s relief master, putting the vessel and the crew at risk.
As well, the tug had a number of deficiencies, and while it was cleared to continue from Halifax to St. John’s folloiwng repairs, the tug’s master was supposed to contact Transport Canada in St. John’s.
That didn’t happen and there was no further inspection. But when the tug was brought back to St. John’s after the Lyubov Orlova debacle, numerous problems were found, including:
• An inadequate towing winch that was unable to stow the minimum recommended length of tow line;
• A lack of structural and watertight integrity, as identified during vessel inspections;
• Several inoperable pieces of lifesaving equipment and lifesaving equipment that was missing.
There are currently no regulations in Canada with respect to the design, construction, and inspection of towing arrangements, towing operators can consult available guidelines for towing arrangements.
The report notes that Transport Canada has drafted a policy that would require towing operations departing Canada for deep sea voyages to be inspected. However, this policy is not yet in effect.
The fate of the Lyubov Orlova is unknown.
Canadian authorities had seized the Lyubov Orlova in September 2010 as part of a lawsuit by Cruise North Expeditions against its Russian owners.
Prior to the botched journey, the Lyubov Orlova was tied to the wharf for years in St. John's after its crew was abandoned by the ship's owners.
With the ship in proximity to the olil platform on Jan. 30, officials from various federal departments and agencies scrambled and a number of urgent meetings also involved oil companie representatives.
The Atlantic Hawk, under contract to Husky Energy, started towing the Lyubov Orlova north to avoid bad weather and successfully handed off the tow to the Maersk Challenger, another offshore supply vessel under contract to Transport Canada.
During the weekend of Feb. 2, the vessel lost the tow and the Lyubov Orlova was adrift again.