independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

‘Rat-infested ghost ship’ lost off Irish coast

An abandoned and possibly rat-ridden cruise ship, lost somewhere off the coast of Ireland, has apparently vanished from the high seas.

The 4,000-tonne "hazardous" ghost ship, Lyubov Orlova, left Canada last January and was bound for Dominican Republic, to be used for scrappage.

It broke away from tow ships three times off the coast of Canada earlier this year. And the Irish Coast Guard says the ship could now be floating anywhere between Ireland and the Faroe Islands, off the coast of Scotland.

Fears have been quashed that any oil on board could be hazardous - because the quantity of oil is too small to cause a problem.

However, if the ship ever floats onto shore in Ireland, any rats on board could prove to be a "biohazard", the coast guard told independent.ie.

Chris Reynolds, the Coast Guard director said: "There's still a bit of lubricant oil and fuel on board but it's not huge because [the ship] would have been emptied because it was going to scrap."

"The ship was alongside the harbour in Newfoundland so we assume there are rats on board, and that's a biohazard. But it's not a major issue."

"We don't want rats from foreign ships coming onto Irish soil. If it came and broke up on shore, I'm sure local people wouldn't be very happy about it."

"If it is afloat, it's blacked out; there's no power and it's a hazard to shipping. The main hazard would be if it hit something [at sea]. The hope is that it's gone, that it's sunk, and we're hoping that the second alarm that went off was to say it had sunk."

Last February, the Irish Coast Guard picked up a mid-Atlantic distress signal one of the ship's alarms, which activate when the vessel has been exposed to water. A satellite found no trace of the ship.

A second alarm was picked up two weeks later. The Irish Coast Guard believes the first signal came from a lifeboat that was tipped overboard, but it believes the second alarm came from the actual ship.

However, Mr Reynolds said: "We'd never be able to prove that it sank."

Meanwhile, the Irish Coast Guard has been quite frustrated with Canadian authorities who were not quick enough to alert them about the lost vessel. 

"It was over ten days from when it went missing to when we were told about it. It has no heat, it has no light, it's basically a black ship in darkness."

"We would have been much happier if they told us much earlier. We could have sank it or towed it in for salvage."

The Lyubov Orlova was named after a Russian screen siren from the 1930s, was built in 1976 and chartered for expeditions to polar waters.

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