Mayor Thomas M. Menino vowed this afternoon to continue pressuring the federal government to keep liquefied natural gas tankers out of Boston Harbor after the first shipment arrived without incident from Yemen.
"I know public opinion is dead against the LNG tankers going into our port," Menino said this afternoon in an interview. "Offshore is the safest option. Why doesn't a company like Distrigas make safety number one? Why aren't they willing to invest in an offshore site?"
Under the intense scrutiny of law enforcement, a mammoth tanker carrying the first of a number of shipments of liquefied natural gas from Yemen glided into Boston Harbor and docked safely. The 935-foot Maran Gas Coronis was visible from East Boston by 4 a.m. It crossed under the Tobin Bridge around 4:30 a.m., and the Boston Police allowed its special operations and detail officers to stand down around 4:35 a.m.
Distrigas and the Coast Guard said that extra security precautions were put in place to minimize any potential risk. Public safety for each delivery costs about $25,000, Menino said, an expense he expected Distrigas to pay.
"This is the first run from Yemen and it went off very successfully because the eyes of the world were on this ship," Menino said. "We expect that because the Coast Guard was there, State Police were there, every security group was there to watch it. But you know this was the first one. What happens to the next 25 that come to Boston?"
Early this morning as the tanker passed Maverick Square, a usually picturesque parkside view of the Boston skyline was completely obscured by the hulking, red ocean vessel. Even the tallest building could no longer be seen.
The ship arrived flanked by pilot vessels and tugs, and was escorted by about a dozen law enforcement boats, with their blue lights flashing. Two police helicopters patrolled above, and an army of state and local police officers, including special operations officers, guarded the land. Patrol cars and wagons were visible at nearly every vantage point with a view of the ship’s arrival.
A Globe reporter and photographer were stopped and asked for identification six times by six different police officers at four spots around Boston and Everett.
A special operations officer with an assault rifle and binoculars kept an eye on the Tobin Bridge from a point in East Boston as police on the bridge closed it down so that the tanker could back up under the bridge and finally dock in Everett.
Agencies involved in today’s operation included the Coast Guard, State Police, Boston Police, Everett Police, and Massachusetts Environmental Police. The ship was searched by the Coast Guard before being allowed to enter the harbor.
“We have a very robust security regime surrounding all the ships that come in,” said Carol Churchill, a spokeswoman for Distrigas. Churchill confirmed that the tanker arrived safely.
Distrigas has signed a 20-year contract with their Yemeni supplier and expects to bring up to 30 shipments a year through Boston Harbor. The company provides 20 percent of New England’s natural gas on a typical day. The liquefied natural gas is converted back to gas at the Everett plant.
Coast Guard spokesman Lieutenant Erik Halvorson declined to comment on this morning’s security procedures. Spokesmen for the State Police and Boston Police did not return calls seeking comment.
John M. Guilfoil can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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