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The Myths of LNG Shipping Perpetuated

June 23rd 2008

Your article "Liquefied Natural Gas Tankers Remain Giant Terror Targets" (Page One June 16) does nothing but perpetuate the myths about LNG shipping. The expert witnesses speaking in front of your congress have their own agenda to play up the risk, a risk which frankly is laughable.

The union representatives know nothing of our (UK that is) vetting or monitoring procedures, scaring the US public with visions of floating bombs manned by any Tom, Dick or Harry that choses to board is just so ridiculous I can't believe the politicians don't see through it. No one can sail on board any ship I have ever worked on without an official seaman's registration book issued by their own country and more commonly now the flag state of the ship registration as well. The flag state issues the identification document after verifying the national ID and certification. I (and every other certificated officer in the UK) am subject to a revalidation process every 5 years, the British government has my full history of the 40 years I have spent at sea. We come to the US and suddenly I am a security risk? I am master on one of the largest, latest generation LNG ships scheduled eventually to come to the US and I can tell you I don't like the idea at all.

The United States is the most hated shipping destination in the world, the authorities are inhospitable, the regulations so complex and unforgiving that the smallest mistake in completing a form leads to a fine of more than $25,000 and delays which can quickly end up costing hundreds of thousands of dollars more. Furthermore, my ship, like many of the sister vessels being built at the moment, is registered in the Marshall Islands which is US territory and a US 2nd register, we are also classed by ABS the American Bureau of Shipping. Yes my ship is registered with a flag of convenience, with the head office in Richmond, Virginia. True, I'm not a US citizen, so they got that bit right.

The US is dependent on international not American shipping, without it the country would quickly stop, the only reason your union bosses insist on using the terror-threat card at every turn is for them to get their members on board my ship. Wake up, their is no terror threat from an LNG tanker bomber. LNG shipping has the best safety record of any sector in the shipping world; the ships are built to contain the cargo they hold. The cargo is almost impossible to explode and the notion that a ship can be blown up on demand is beyond belief and as for a Naval officer suggesting such a thing raises doubt on the creditablity of US naval intelligence services. LNG burns with a "lazy" flame, not an explosive one; in all probability any incident on a tanker would lead to fire nothing more, bad enough for those on board but this does not represent a major danger to surrounding areas. No large scale test has ever been conducted of the results of a leak of LNG, all results are an extrapolation of a test using very small quantities of LNG carried out in the early seventies. Everything being given as fact is far from it.

Set the record strait (sic). Stop slandering me and my colleagues and be honest with the American public. LNG ships have been around for almost 50 years and there has never been a major accident, I am sure this record will continue.


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