2010-05-27 / Letters to the Editor

Not many facts on LNG

Last week, Mr. DeMello raised the question of 15 knots perhaps being an extraordinarily high speed for vessels in the East Passage.

First, I am interested to know exactly where it is Mr. DeMello acquired this nautical assessment. Admittedly, 15 is on the high side of the estimates, but by no means “extraordinarily high.” As an officer on vessels comparable in size to these “ugly and toxic behemoths,” I have personally passed under many bridges. In New York, I have passed under the Verrazano (the template for the Pell and Mt. Hope bridges) at 13 knots, as well as the Bayonne, with clearance less than six feet. I have passed under San Francisco’s Golden Gate and Michigan’s Mackinaw at 15. Again, I am curious as to the source of the assessment that a speed onefourth of 15 knots (3.75 knots) is appropriate. To the best of my memory, I have never seen a ship maneuver at this speed in the East Passage – except those anchoring.

The assertion that bridge closure alone is reason enough to stop commerce is interesting for two reasons. As I mentioned last week, the bridges don’t have to be closed at all – RITBA (as the owner of the bridge) has willingly made this decision, without force of law.

Second, the anger over mild inconvenience is somewhat amusing. On the Calumet River in Chicago, ships maneuver through drawbridge after drawbridge in a busy city. Perhaps, due to the inconvenience and preposterous bridge closures, every coal dock, salt dock and steel mill in Chicago should be shut down.

I would also like to point out that these so-called “ugly and toxic behemoths” are actually the least toxic of any ship on our waters. LNG is far less toxic than gasoline, home heating oil or caustic soda, all of which pass our shores. Two types of coal create either methane or carbon dioxide – explosive and hazardous in their own right. Why is there no uproar about nuclear Navy ships in our waters? With regard to fuel spills, most LNG ships don’t even carry fuel oil – running instead on their cargo of “cryogenically cold liquid.”

Like Mr. DeMello, I am also not comfortable with the image of a couple of 11- year-olds in a sailing dinghy, desperately trying to escape a LNG tanker. My concern is how their sailing instructor allowed them to stray so far into the shipping channel, and is now too far away to provide motorized assistance.

Additionally, why are we less concerned when these young boaters are confronted with a car ship, coal ship, tanker or cruise ship? This situation must have happened before. I am certain this not a new phenomenon that only occurs around LNG.

The fact is, nothing about this project is any more dangerous than what we already have. It may even be less dangerous.

These are facts. So far, the only fact I’ve seen out of those opposed is that 60 days is more than 45.

Shawn Ouellette


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