I have recently joined LNG Industry from Palladian Publications’ sister publication World Coal, and as a means of introducing myself to the industry, I attended the press launch of Gas Matters, the new informational DVD from the marine insurer UK P&I Club, designed to educate crews on how to avoid gas cargo claims.
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I have recently joined LNG Industry from Palladian Publications’ sister publication World Coal, and as a means of introducing myself to the industry, I attended the press launch of Gas Matters, the new informational DVD from the marine insurer UK P&I Club, designed to educate crews on how to avoid gas cargo claims. It was during this event that I was advised that one of the biggest issues in the sector at the moment is that of ‘people’. I was impressed to learn that the industry has experienced no major vapour release or major incident in 43 years, with over 50 000 voyages completed without a major cargo incident. It seems that LNG ships continue to be among the safest vessels on the sea and 69% of claims made between 1987 and 2007 (according to UK P&I Club) were people related.
In 2007, 43% of LNG/LPG ship chief officers had less than 2 years experience. This shows that new people are coming into the industry, which can only be a good thing when the number of LNG carriers is expected to increase by 50% over the next four nears from 260 - 392 in-service carriers. At least 10 000 additional seafarers including 5000 officers should be required by 2010 to service this demand for manpower. However, it is imperative that these rapidly acquired new recruits have sufficient training invested in them in order to maintain the exceptional safety record that the LNG industry prides itself on.
Crews will increasingly need to be highly trained and/or experienced as the ships they are operating on increase in age and need ever more complex maintenance. LNG ships have a 40 year life span, and in 2010 there will be approximately 23 ships over 35 years old. Ships will also be increasing in size, (with Q-Max designs ten times the size of the first commercial vessels) presenting additional challenges and a steep learning curve to a relatively inexperienced crew.
As well as the crew of LNG vessels, the general public can be seen as being integral to the ‘people issue.’ It seems the public are still largely misinformed about the dangers of LNG vessels and terminals, or else inclined against the introduction of such in their vicinity on the basis of pollution or the fear that the development may be a target for terrorist activity. The public have recently played a big part in the ultimate opposition to the construction of a floating LNG terminal in Long Island Sound, New York, proposed by Broadwater Energy, which would have been the first of its kind in the US. Despite a safety and security assessment by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s consulting company, Giuliani Partners, concluding that this terminal would be ‘as safe a facility in design as you could possibly have,’ along with the fact that a major LNG spill has never occurred, it seems the public would rather focus on such information that a terrorist attack on an LNG tanker could hypothetically create a conflagration so intense it would burn people a mile away, (according to a 2007 study by the Government Accountability Office based on assumptions and computer modelling in the absence of any real life examples to work from.)
Canvey LNG is currently developing an LNG plant in Canvey, UK, and has provided an accessible website with a FAQ section dedicated to answering questions from its local community such as ‘the new installation would clearly be a major terrorist target?’ and ‘what would happen if the unthinkable does take place?’ These questions are met with reassurance along the lines of ‘we cannot emphasise enough that the chances of this happening would be extremely remote […] there is actually no evidence that installations such as [this] would be a target for terrorist action,’ and ‘remember that the 2 in. thick steel walls of the tanks are encased in 2.5 ft of concrete with a 3 ft space in-between so it would be incredibly unlikely for [a leak] to happen.’
The LNG sector needs to keep putting its best public relations face forward, and take pains to address public concern. With newer, safer technology such as onboard reliquefaction, regasification and new containment systems, along with a positive recruitment and training drive, (Shell Ship Management Ltd and the American Maritime Officers union have recently signed a MOU to recruit highly trained US officers into Shell’s fast expanding fleet of LNG carriers,) there is no reason why the industry cannot successfully address both sides of the ‘people’ issue.