Investigators on scene of tanker beached at Little Pond

Federal minister says vessel could be removed as early as Tuesday

David Jala
Published on January 9, 2017

Investigators from Canada’s Transportation Safety Board are on the scene where the MV Arca 1 ran aground off the cliffs on the east coast of Cape Breton. Above, a Canadian Coast Guard ship and a smaller tugboat are shown in the vicinity of the stricken tanker that lies in the shallows off Little Pond, about 10 km northwest of the mouth of Sydney Harbour.


LITTLE POND, N.S. — Investigators from Canada’s Transportation Safety Board are in Cape Breton to probe the grounding of a 53-metre tanker ship near the mouth of Sydney Harbour.

The MV Arca 1 ran aground below the cliffs of Little Pond, located 10 km northwest of Sydney Harbour, on Sunday after it experienced engine failure and was left with no defense against the strong winds that pushed the stricken vessel toward its present resting place. The bunkering tanker, that departed Montréal on Dec. 31, had been trying to make the shelter of Sydney Harbour to ride out what had become rough seas off the Cape Breton coast. It is believed the vessel was heading to the Dominican Republic with a scheduled stop in Shelburne, N.S.

All six crewmembers, said to be a combination of Canadians and Americans, on the Mexican-owned, Panamanian-registered ship were hoisted to safety by a search and rescue team on a Cormorant helicopter that had been dispatched to the scene from Greenwood. N.S. There were no injuries reported.

Pierre Murray, TSB’s regional manager of marine investigations, said a team, comprised of a master mariner and a chief engineer, is now on the scene.

“When we investigate an accident, we go there, we find out what happened and why it happened and what can we do so it doesn’t happen again — that’s what we do, moving the vessel is the responsibility of the owner,” said Murray, who added that while the TSB team is conducting an independent investigation, it will be working with and relying on other agencies.

Meanwhile, an Environmental Response Incident Command Post has been set up at the Canadian Coast Guard College in nearby Point Edward, where Dominic LeBlanc, Federal Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, met with facility personnel and members of the news media.

“The obvious ongoing concern is to ensure that there is no marine pollution or consequences to the marine environment, the fishing grounds, and to ensure that everything is being done to protect the coastline,” said LeBlanc, who was joined by Cape Breton-Canso MP Rodger Cuzner and Nova Scotia Transportation Minister Geoff MacLellan on a plane that made several passes over the stranded ship.

“That’s why it is so urgent to safely and effectively remove the vessel from its present position.”

LeBlanc said the MV Arca 1 would be prepared for a first removal attempt that he indicated could be as early as 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, when the tide is at its highest. However, he cautioned that any number of factors could change the time, and possibly the day, of the attempted salvage.

“Our government feels strongly that those responsible for these kinds of incidents need to be accountable and prepared to accept responsibility and, at this point, we have no reason to believe the owners will not accept responsibility,” he said.

For his part, MacLellan said the situation is very different from the circumstances surrounding the MV Miner, a derelict ship that washed ashore on Scaterie Island in September 2011 after it broke loose from the vessel that was towing it across the Atlantic Ocean. The issue of who would pay for the cleanup was controversial during the three years it took to complete the salvage.

 “It’s an active vessel with a mission — this isn’t a derelict ship, so it’s a different set of circumstances that we operated with before in Cape Breton with a derelict vessel,” said MacLellan.

“At this point, we’re confident that the owners will accept responsibility, which is ultimately the cost, and ensure that the coastline is protected.

The vessel was not carrying any fuel as cargo and its ballast tanks were filled with seawater. However, the ship’s fuel tanks still hold about 16-tonnes of diesel propulsion fuel. And, given that, the plan to prepare the vessel for removal includes setting up floating booms around the ship to capture any fluids that may leak.