LNG Shipments From Yemen Allowed Into Boston Harbor

(NECN: Josh Brogadir, Everett, Mass.) - Liquefied natural gas shipments from Yemen will be allowed into Boston Harbor. The Coast Guard says it has a security plan, and now officials are trying to reassure Boston residents, including Mayor Tom Menino, the the plan is safe.

Just to put some context to the location, this is the Tobin Bridge over the Mystic River, the Bunker Hill Monument with the Prudential Building off in the distance, and behind me is the plant in Everett where the LNG tankers will arrive.

So clearly there a lot of people living and working in this area.

In just a few weeks, controversial shipments of Liquified Natural Gas, used to heat homes will arrive in the port of Boston for the first time from Yemen, a country known as a terrorist training ground, and the place where the accused Christmas Day bomber allegedly worked with al Qaeda. 

After a year long review,
Coast Guard Captain John Healey, Captain of the Port of Boston, announced he will permit highly explosive LNG shipments to arrive in Everett on a case by case basis.

Here's why:

"I maintain the authority to adjust security requirements for these vessels as needed. This includes the authority to implement additional and random security measures, as well as the authority to deny entry to any vessel if I'm not satisfied with its security," Capt. Healey said.

That extra security for the Yemeni shipments will include dive sweeps and on board checks by the Coast Guard 5 to 7 miles off shore in Broad Sound.

But it's not good enough for a fired up Boston Mayor Tom Menino who met two weeks ago with the Coast Guard and criticized its clearance of the deliveries and the company Distrigas for importing the shipment.

"What about the safety of the people? I am very disturbed by the Coast Guard on this matter. I think it's wrong and I think the Homeland Security Director in Washington should take hold of this situation," Menino said.

The company issued a statement which says, "Distrigas is very pleased with the U.S. Coast Guard's decision, and will coordinate closely with the Coast Guard and other authorities on this shipment and future deliveries."

Those future deliveries begin at the end of this month and are expected to continue two to three times a month for 20 years.

Captain Healey says there have been 900 safe deliveries made to the Everett facility and pointed out there has never been a major incident involving the delivery of LNG worldwide.

So he was asked about guaranteeing the safety of people in and around Boston.

"I cannot guarantee perfect safety. Sometimes accidents happen, things go wrong, so I cannot guarantee perfect safety. What I can guarantee is that the security measures I'm putting in place give me the confidence that these tankers are as safe as any other tankers that enter the Port of Boston," he said.

We asked Captain Healey if following the attempted attack in Detroit in December, the Coast Guard thought about scrapping these plans.

He said, it highlighted the issue, but did not change their decision.

There will be no Yemeni crew members on board the ships and every crew member will have U.S. visa.

But there is concern from some about stowaways, looking to cause problems in the United States.

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