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article imageRat-infested ghost ship may be heading for Britain

By Joe Duarte     Jan 23, 2014 in World
It sounds like a plotline to a Stephen King story — a ghost ship afloat on the high seas is drifting toward the British Isles; its only passengers are cannibal rats who have had nothing to eat but each other since the ship was set adrift.
Many people would probably pay good money to read such a story or watch it on the large screen, but they can watch it play out on the small screen — in the news. It’s a real happening involving a real ship — the Lyubov Orlova — cut loose off the coast of Canada in January 2013. It is believed to be infested with rats that have nothing to eat but other rats in order to survive their high-seas ordeal. And, it’s unaccounted for.
Marine experts believe it is still afloat because most of its life raft beacons have not been set off (which would automatically happen when they hit the water) and they believe it is somewhere off the coast of the United Kingdom (perhaps Scotland or Ireland). Two distress signals were received in March 2013, believed to have come from life rafts that may have broken free from the vessel and sank.
In the past year, the ship has been unsuccessfully hunted down by salvage crews eager to cash in on its reported $1 million U.S scrap value, reports The Telegraph.
“She is floating around out there somewhere,” says Pim de Rhoodes, a Belgian-based marine-missions specialist. “There will be a lot of rats and they eat each other.”
Built in the former Yugoslavia, the Ice-class passenger cruise ship (featuring a strengthened hull to withstand impacts with ice) has seen duty as on Antarctic and Arctic expeditions. It was seized in Newfoundland in 2010 due to outstanding money owed to a cruise charterer and it was revealed the crew had not been paid in five months. To settle debts, the ship was sold off and towed to the Dominican Republic to be scrapped. However, the tow rope snapped in stormy seas and the ship began to drift eastward off Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula (near the Hibernia oil fields).
Under contract from Husky Oil, the offshore supply vessel Atlantic Hawk regained control of the derelict ship but was ordered to set her adrift once in international waters because it “no longer poses a threat to the safety of offshore oil installations, their personnel or the marine environment.
“The vessel has drifted into international waters and given current patterns and predominant winds, it is very unlikely that the vessel will re-enter waters under Canadian jurisdiction,” read a Transport Canada statement on the incident, claiming the owner of the vessel was responsible for its movements and adding that measures had been taken to monitor its position.
The Lyubov Orlova’s last noted whereabouts was about 1,500 miles (roughly 2,400 km) off the Irish coast in February 2013.
“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,” Irish Coast Guard Director Chris Reynolds told The National Post. “For us, the big danger is something hitting it. Something can bump into it in the middle of the night in the Atlantic.”
Toward the end of March 2013, off the coast of Scotland, an unidentified object about the right size was caught on radar but search planes couldn’t get a visual. In May 2013, the Canadian Coast Guard presumed the Lyubov Orlova sunk, citing that there had been no reported sightings since March 12, 2013.
“There have been huge storms in recent months but it takes a lot to sink a vessel as big as that,” said Reynolds. “We must stay vigilant.”
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