It is a story that has drifted from the bizarre to the outright ridiculous. On the last day of January in an editorial in this space, we pointed out that the story of the Lyubov Orlova seems to be missing a number of crucial pieces: among them, how an ill-equipped tugboat managed to leave St. John’s with the former cruise ship in tow, why that tow was undertaken in the worst of winter weather, and whether the vessels were carrying insurance to pay for the haul.
Since then, the story has become downright unbelievable.
Over the weekend, one of the Orlova’s owners — Reza Shoeybi, currently stranded on the tugboat Charlene Hunt, which is dockside in St. John’s until a litany of ship safety improvements are made — suggested that not only should Transport Canada help him find the now-missing Orlova, but even went so far as to suggest the federal government has assumed some kind of vicarious liability for the ship.
Why? Because offshore vessels managed to attach a towline to Mr. Shoeybi’s derelict property to keep it from drifting into offshore oil facilities. The vessel was towed by one offshore vessel and then later was transferred to another vessel to bring the ship ashore. The tow broke, leaving the vessel adrift.
“I think they’re a bit responsible now.”
So let’s see if we can get this straight: Shoeybi arranged a winter tow with a tug that couldn’t handle the job, offshore vessels managed to keep his derelict property — property he’s still legally responsible for — from potentially doing expensive damage to offshore platforms, and because they took a role in stopping that damage from occurring and attempted to tow the vessel ashore, Transport Canada has somehow assumed some kind of responsibility for the vessel?
This has certainly not been Transport Canada’s finest hour: the tug the Charlene Hunt almost sank on its way here in the first place. It’s a 50-year-old workhorse, dragged out of something like two years of retirement, that had enough trouble looking after itself and probably should never have been allowed to leave port with the Orlova under tow. Why it got out through the Narrows in the first place is well worth investigating, as are the circumstances under which the vessel’s original towline broke.
Transportation Safety Board investigators have come to the province to look into some of those questions. Let’s hope they get answers, and share them.
In the meantime, whatever Transport Canada may or may not have done in relation to this little expedition, any suggestion that the federal authority is now in some way on the hook for the mistakes that took the Orlova away from the wharf should get the kind of reaction they deserve: either a good belly laugh or sheer disbelief.
It’s time for this little comedy to draw to a close.