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LNG Tankers: Moving Terrorist Targets

LNG tankers are considered by the federal government and emergency personnel to be moving terrorist targets. As Boston Fire Chief Paul Christian said about the LNG plant in Everett, Massachusetts, “The transit of LNG through any urban area is extremely hazardous…particularly in light of the terrorist potential.”

If the Bechtel-Shell facility were to be built, these 950-foot long LNG tankers (the length of three football fields!) carrying 1.3 billion cubic feet (9,724,675,180 gallons) of LNG would travel under the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Rafael/Richmond Bridge and up through the San Francisco and San Pablo bays three times per week.

Each tanker would travel in a huge "safety zone" in which no other maritime traffic would be permitted. Currently, U.S. Coast Guard safety zones for LNG tankers are as large as two miles ahead, one mile behind, and 1,000 yards on either side of the tanker. U.S. Coast Guard ships would escort the LNG tankers through the Bay, enforcing the safety zone with machine guns and possibly helicopters.

Former Deputy Defense Secretary John J. Hamre, head of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, testified before Congress in June 2002 on the topic of Homeland Security. He raised concerns about attacks on so-called "soft" energy targets, including LNG terminals, and noted that the scale of such aggression could rival the September 11th terrorist attacks. (New Vision Urged for Homeland Security, Aviation Week & Space Technology, July 8, 2002, Paul Mann)

In a letter to the new Coast Guard commandant, Adm. Thomas H.Collins, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) wrote that she is "gravely concerned that the U.S. Coast Guard, already stretched to perform added homeland security missions, simply does not have the vessels and personnel necessary to take on the added burden [liquefied natural gas] shipping would impose." Coast Guard to Issue Report on Safety of Cove Point Gas Plant - Washington Post

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino is so worried about the dangers of an LNG fire that he sued for a temporary restraining order halting the passage of LNG tankers through the harbor on their way to the Distrigas LNG plant in Everett, Massachusetts. According to Menino, the risk from a terrorist attack is “just too great…What do we do if a fire on a large ship spreads to neighborhoods and business districts on both sides of the harbor?”(Boston Herald, War on Terrorism; Hub sues to bar LNG tanker from Harbor, Ellen J. Silberman, Oct. 27, 2001.)

Bechtel-Shell say that the new tankers have double hulls and are virtually impossible to breach. This “virtual impossibility” happened on October 6, 2002 when a small terrorist boat in Yemen rammed a double-hulled French oil tanker, piercing the double hull, causing a massive fire and spilling approximately 90,000 barrels of oil. Terrorism now suspected in French oil tanker blast - Washington Post

Security experts in Everett, Massachusetts, one of the four LNG receiving stations in the U.S., wonder why Vallejo would voluntarily invite the risks associated with LNG into our community. Everett, Massachusetts’s own commander of special operations, Lieutenant Patrick McAdam, when asked whether he thought an LNG terminal on Mare Island would be safe, said, “All things being equal, I don’t see a reason to put one in a residential area unless it’s already there. If there’s no risk then why incur one?” LNG: One Town's Story - Vallejo Times Herald

Why would we build this target for terrorists in our community? This kind of facility should NEVER be built in a populated area, let alone in Vallejo or the San Francisco Bay Area.

More Links:
California Assembly Bill & Siting LNG facilities: Transportation of Liquefied Natural Gas (1977) United States Congress Office of Technology Assessment
Security Zone: LNG Tanker Transits and Operations at Phillips Petroleum LNG Pier, Cook Inlet, Alaska


© 2002 maggdog communications
Photos courtesy of Michael Halberstadt, Joyce Scharf and Friends of VallejoCPR
Page Last Updated Jan 8, 2003
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