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Grounded tanker Arca 1 restricted from sailing during federal inspection

Officials say monitoring continues, but no pollution has been found after the Arca 1 ran aground off Cape Breton on Jan. 8.

SYDNEY — The Arca 1 tanker, which ran aground off the shores of Cape Breton just over a week ago, isn't going anywhere until Transport Canada has completed its investigation.

Marie-Anyk Cote, a senior communications adviser with Transport Canada, said in an emailed statement on Monday the Arca 1 remains tied up at a private wharf in Sydport Industrial Park, across from the cruise ship terminal in Sydney Harbour, "and the vessel is restricted from sailing while an ongoing compliance inspection continues."

The inspection includes the vessel, its operations and interviews with the crew members, she said.

"We will not hesitate to take appropriate action at any time as the inspection continues," said Cote.

It wasn't immediately clear what range of actions Transport Canada could take if the vessel or its operators were found to have breached the conditions of their licence to transit through Canadian waters or other federal regulations.

The Arca 1, a barging tanker used to shuttle fuel to ships in Montreal, was recently purchased by Petroil Marine, a Mexican company, and was reflagged under Panamanian registration. Officials say it was headed to the Caribbean, where it was expected to continue as a working vessel.

Marine experts have said the flat-bottomed vessel with two outboard motors was never intended to work in the open ocean.

Officials also said the Arca 1 was not carrying any cargo, but contained about nine tonnes of diesel and its ballast tanks contained seawater.

The vessel lost power to one engine on Jan. 8 during stormy conditions outside the entrance to Sydney Harbour and was unable to get help before it ran aground in the shallows off Little Pond.

Six crew members were airlifted by a military helicopter and recovery efforts failed Tuesday due to ice in the ballast tanks. A salvage crew from McKeil Marine, an Ontario company with a tug operation at Sydport, was trying to remove the ballast water to lift the Arca 1 before towing it into deeper water.

McKeil tried again on Saturday, but weather hampered the recovery effort. The company was successful Sunday morning, freeing the tanker at high tide around 10 a.m.

"Through expertise and teamwork, we were able to complete this recovery operation safely, without any incident or impact to the environment," McKeil vice-president Olous Boag said in a statement Monday.

Coast Guard officials confirmed Sunday that no pollution had occurred as a result of the grounding or the towing operation to Sydport.