Grounded tanker freed from Cape Breton shore

The grounded bunkering tanker Arca 1 has been freed from the coast of Little Pond, N.S., and is now tied to a dock in the Sydney harbour after being stranded for a week.

A tugboat pulled the vessel free at high tide Sunday morning a week after it was stranded

The Arca 1 has been safely towed off the shore near Little Pond, N.S. (Christian DuGas)

The grounded bunkering tanker Arca 1 has been freed from the coast of Little Pond, N.S., and is now tied to a dock in the Sydney harbour after being stranded for a week. 

McKeil Marine Ltd., a marine transportation firm, and the Canadian Coast Guard worked together to remove the vessel during high tide Sunday morning.

"The work was done safely and professionally and proficiently. There were no lives lost, no injuries and no harm to the environment," said Keith Laidlaw, a senior response officer with the Coast Guard's environmental branch.

The Arca 1's crew of six were removed from the tanker in a helicopter rescue last Sunday.

The tanker was towed out of the area around 10 a.m. today, after high seas and winds foiled earlier attempts to free the vessel.

"Weather forced us to wait until now to do it and it really was the best time to do it," said Laidlaw.

First, crews pumped out the ballast water in the hull. Ships carry ballast to increase stability and it was pumped out to make the Arca 1 lighter and easier to tow. 

"They took several hundred tonnes (300 tonnes) of ballast water off the vessel...and it floated free," said Stephen Bornais, a spokesman for the Canadian Coast Guard who was at the scene when the ship was removed.  

Pulled into deeper water

A tow line attached to the 53-metre ship was used by a tugboat to pull it into deeper water during high tide Sunday morning. 

The Arca 1's engine failed last Sunday during stormy weather north of Sydney Mines. With no propulsion the ship was pushed toward the shoreline and ended up grounded.

The Arca 1 is now on its way to Sydney Harbour for repairs. (Submitted by Sandra Gear)

Crews planned to try to free the ship Saturday night but high winds and seas delayed those plans

The tanker wasn't carrying any cargo but it had about 16 tonnes of fuel onboard for its own engines. 

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has said that booms were put in place around the vessel to protect against any environmental damage. The Coast Guard also said conservation protection vessels would be monitoring the operation.

'Quick and efficient' response

Laidlaw said Arca 1 is now in the owner's hands.

"The owner has been very cooperative and very available and very responsive up until this point," said Laidlaw. 

"Coast Guard is looking at demobilizing our incident command post, probably tomorrow, and, as in all these incidents ... there will be a report."

Arca 1being towed from the coast of Little Pond, N.S. Sunday. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)

Laidlaw could not say how much the operation cost.

"We happened to have a lot of resources and equipment right here before the incident happened that made response very quick and efficient," he said.

The ship was sailing from Montreal to Mexico when it became stuck.

The Mexican company, Petroil Marine SA, that owns the ship is responsible for the costs of removing the tanker.

Crowds gather to watch ship depart

Terry Tremblett lives close to where the boat was grounded. He, along with several others, watched crews remove the ship. 

"You could see water coming out of there — whether it was ballast water or what I don't know," said Tremblett, "They had lights and power aboard her."     

There's been a lot more visitors to the town of Little Pond, N.S., since the vessel went aground last week.  

"I've seen more traffic down here this week and I'm here 17 years. There was more traffic this week any day of the week than there was in the 17 years," said Tremblett. 

With files from Blair Sanderson and Anjuli Patil