Hefty LNG Security Costs Based on Experience

By Published On: October 29, 2004

State and local law enforcement agencies have yet to seriously consider the security demands that importing liquefied natural gas at the Port of Long Beach may impose on them. Experience from the long-established LNG port in Massachusetts shows security is likely to be extensive and expensive for California, according to a suppressed document obtained by <i>Circuit</i> and acknowledgments from police. ?We have not gone into any specifics with the developers,? said Bill Ellis, director of security for the Port of Long Beach. He explained that LNG terminal backer Sound Energy Solutions?which is planning to unload 120 LNG ships a year?would be responsible for security within its proposed terminal, but Long Beach harbor police would handle perimeter security. The cost of increased land-side security for LNG by the local harbor police will be borne by the city. ?We?re still at the information-gathering stage,? said Gary Winuk, chief deputy director of the California Office of Homeland Security. ?We?re going to learn from the lessons of Boston and other ports.? While Massachusetts police refused to share details of that state?s LNG security, a ?confidential? document outlines in plain terms the precautions authorities take in Boston when LNG ships call on the Distrigas terminal, up the Mystic River in Everett, just past the James Tobin Bridge. Penobscot Bay Watch obtained the report from Maine governor John Elias Baldacci under the state freedom of information law. The Maine Department of Public Security prepared the report on safeguards for LNG shipments in Massachusetts in response to proposals for import terminals in Maine. Penobscot Bay Watch briefly posted the document to its Web site, but quickly took it off after Distrigas and the Department of Homeland Security protested. The state defended its decision to make the report public. The document shows that the security program for LNG tanker arrivals consists of more than a dozen steps involving eight separate security forces under the command of the U.S. Coast Guard. First, the Coast Guard notifies the agencies that an LNG ship is arriving. In response, the state police send two undercover investigators ?well in advance? to observe the docking station. They stay on the scene for 24 to 26 hours. Next, 11 state police officers move in to inspect the wharf and the ship?s path along the river, both on the surface and with an underwater dive team. Meanwhile, the Coast Guard sets up a command post. When the ship is within two miles of the Massachusetts coast, five Coast Guard vessels?two equipped with rams, two with ?heavy weaponry,? and one that acts as a command vessel?surround it to form a 500-yard exclusionary zone on its passage into port. Outside that zone, the Boston police, state police, and the state environmental police provide a combined six-boat ring as a first line of defense against suspect craft that come within 1,000 yards of the tanker. Their crews are authorized to use deadly force if necessary. Above, a state police helicopter hovers to observe the tanker from just outside the harbor until it is docked. Meanwhile, on land, the state police shut down traffic on the Tobin Bridge. In addition, the Boston police provide 20 to 30 officers to close down all adjacent roads and wharves that lead to the harbor for about two hours, from the time the LNG tanker enters the harbor until it docks. The Boston Fire Department provides one of its members to staff the unified command center. Once docked, both the Everett Fire Department and the police department provide personnel, including an on-scene fire engine, at the Distrigas facility during the typical 24-hour offloading process. Since 9/11, the company has provided the city $1.75 million for this service. In addition, the company has 13 private security guards on hand from Guardsmark, a slight increase from the 10 employed on a full-time basis at the terminal. After the ship has unloaded, state police and the U.S. Coast Guard maintain an exclusionary zone around the ship as it sails to sea, and state officers shut down the outer lanes of the Tobin Bridge. The Boston police continue to control access points to the harbor. Since the procedures were put into place, state police alone have been paid $1.2 million in overtime, which averages 231 hours per ship. Operational costs?including fuel, wear and tear on equipment, etc.?are additional, as are costs to the other agencies involved in providing security. State police have logged some 40 to 50 reports of suspicious persons or incidents, such as foreign nationals photographing tanker ships. The report indicates that Distrigas has agreed in principle to cover part of the state police force?s costs, though the details have not yet been negotiated. ?It?s part of the federal tax dollar,? said Lance Jones, chief warrant officer for the Coast Guard?s Los Angeles office. Since 9/11, that office has increased its activity to protect energy-industry ships, including providing escorts and at times even armed vessels to guard ships with volatile cargoes. A key task for the Coast Guard, Jones said, would be to enforce exclusionary zones around LNG ships when they call on the terminal in Long Beach. Security for Sound Energy Solutions? proposed LNG terminal would likely be coordinated through ongoing maritime security committee meetings for the Port of Long Beach and the Port of Los Angeles. They involve state and local departments and law enforcement agencies, including the California Energy Commission, the California Public Utilities Commission, and port authorities.

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