Rhode Island Passes Bill on LNG Ship Ops

Tuesday, May 10, 2005
The House of Representatives today voted 66-0 to approve legislation introduced by Rep. Raymond E. Gallison Jr. to require any LNG tanker to have an LNG-certified American master mariner present on each trip through Rhode Island waters and during transfer of cargo.

Representative Gallison, chairman of the Special House Commission to Study the Transportation of Liquefied Natural Gas and a Democrat who represents District 69 in Bristol and Portsmouth, proposed the legislation (2005 - H5362Aaa) as a safety measure should either of the two proposed local LNG terminal projects go forward.

“If either of these LNG projects are approved, we need this assurance that there’s someone on board with no stake in the delivery who knows how to identify safety problems on LNG tankers and would have no problem halting the shipment if there’s a safety problem,” said Representative Gallison, who has been at the forefront of the efforts to fight the proposed Weaver’s Cove LNG terminal in Fall River, Mass., and the expansion of the Keyspan LNG terminal in Providence. “We have too many people living and working along the route that these tankers would take to take any chances with safety.”

The bill would require every LNG tanker entering Rhode Island waters to have an LNG-certified, federally licensed master mariner on board any time it enters Rhode Island waters north of a line between Sakonnet Point and Point Judith. The master mariner would advise the ship’s crew to perform any actions necessary to protect the safety of Rhode Islanders. The ship would also need the approval of the master mariner to unload at the terminal.

The legislation would not affect existing requirements that all the tankers have on board a Rhode Island-licensed marine pilot whenever entering Rhode Island waters. The pilot’s purpose is to use his or her knowledge of Rhode Island’s waters to ensure that the tanker avoids potential obstacles to navigation.

A federal report issued in late 2004 indicated that, while the risk of an incident involving a tanker explosion is low, a fire fed by large amounts of LNG could produce enough heat to burn people and structures a mile away. Co-sponsors of the legislation include Rep. Fausto C. Anguilla (D-Dist. 68, Bristol, Warren), Rep. Paul E. Moura (D-Dist. 2, Providence, East Providence), Rep. Joseph S. Almeida (D-Dist. 12, Providence), and Rep. J. Russell Jackson (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown).

The legislation will now be forwarded to the Senate, which last week passed an identical bill (2005 - S0138Aaa) sponsored by Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis, a Democrat who represents District 33 in Coventry, East Greenwich, West Warwick and Warwick.

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