Liquefied natural gas (LNG) tankers from Yemen will be allowed to enter Boston Harbor beginning later this month, the U.S. Coast Guard said last week. Tankers from the country, which is thought to harbor terrorists, will be subject to additional security, the Coast Guard said.

“Right now we have LNG shipments already coming into Boston, of course, and we’ve got a pretty robust security regime in place for those…What we’ve done is looked at the additional risks posed by bringing ships from Yemen and we’ve designed some measures that will help make those shipments from Yemen as safe as shipments coming from other places into Boston,” Erik Halvorsen, District 1 Coast Guard public affairs officer, told NGI.

An airline passenger with ties to Al-Qaeda in Yemen tried to blow up a Northwest Airlines plane headed for Detroit on Christmas Day. Despite the fact that LNG tankers from Yemen will be subject to additional security, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino lashed out at the Coast Guard decision.

“The shipment of liquefied natural gas through Boston is not a new issue; for years it has been a major problem and will continue to be until a long-term solution is found…” Menino said. “Extra security alone is not a proper solution and it is the duty of the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to develop a long-term strategy that will significantly limit, if not eliminate, the need for tankers to travel through Boston Harbor.”

GDF Suez Energy North America, which owns the Distrigas of Massachusetts terminal in Everett, MA, sought approval of the shipments (see NGI, Jan. 11), which was granted by Coast Guard Capt. John Healey. LNG has never before been transported directly from Yemen to the United States, but rather has always gone through a third party.

The Yemeni cargoes will supplement LNG supplies to Distrigas from Trinidad and Tobago as well as Egypt, according to GDF Suez. The LNG plant in Yemen started production in October. The $4.5 billion facility eventually will have two trains with a combined capacity of 6.7 million tons annually.

Halvorsen said the Coast Guard will be taking steps to make sure vessels are safe before they arrive in Yemen to be loaded with LNG; “that they stay secure while they’re there; that no explosives can be placed on board; that there can’t be stowaways, that kind of thing. And then we have taken steps to make sure it stays safe on the transit over.”

Measures will include security teams on board the tankers, vessel hull sweeps to ensure there is nothing attached to the tankers, and escorts for anybody that boards the tankers in Yemen, Halvorsen said. It’s possible that there could be someone from the Coast Guard on board the tankers for the entire trip from Yemen, but that’s not guaranteed, he said.

For non-Yemeni LNG tankers, Coast Guard procedure is to meet the tankers in Broad Sound outside Boston Harbor, inspect the vessel and escort it into the harbor and provide security while it’s there.

It is expected that there will be two to three Yemeni cargoes coming to Boston every month with a maximum of 30 per year over a 20-year contract period, Halvorsen said.

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