Suez North America, which is building the Neptune port seven miles southeast of Gloucester and is expected to begin operation in 2009, announced in December it will increase the number of American mariners on its vessels.
"The safe and secure transportation of liquefied natural gas is critical to the well-being of the citizens of the commonwealth," Patrick said in a letter to Maritime Administrator Sean T. Connaughton. "The use of U.S. citizen crews will help to accomplish this critical obligation."
To alleviate some concerns about the safety of the vessels, Suez plans to change the makeup of the crews of all its vessels to increase the number of American mariners.
Joseph McKechnie, senior vice president of shipping for Suez, said the company has a fleet of four LNG vessels, three under charter and two to three more under construction designed specifically for the Neptune port off Gloucester, and could build two more.
Almost all their vessels are under the Norwegian flag, while others are registered in Spain. There are no plans to bring them under the American flag, but McKechnie said the company plans to have as many American mariners on board as are available.
The vessels now have Norwegians, Spaniards, Finns, Latvians, Croatians and Filipinos for crews. They are all trained under similar regulations and requirements as American mariners, McKechnie said.
Douglas Pizzi, a spokesman for Excelerate Energy, said his company is working out a similar program with the Maritime Administration.
"Once the record of decision comes out, it will contain the details of what we've been negotiating," he said.
Excelerate has been training maritime cadets from the Massachusetts and Maine maritime academies, as well as Texas A & M University, and instructors on their vessels in a program started in 2005, Pizzi said.
Suez reached a similar agreement with the Maritime Administration late last year and plans to bring cadets aboard its vessels as soon as possible.
In addition, both liquefied natural gas companies proposing deepwater ports off Gloucester are seeking emissions permits from the Environmental Protection Agency.
A public comment period for the two permits, which would allow Excelerate Energy and Suez Energy North America to "construct and operate sources of air pollution emissions," began yesterday and will run through March 8. The EPA will hold a public hearing in Boston at 6 p.m. March 8 at the agency's Boston office on Congress Street.
The sources of the air pollution, according to the EPA notice, will be the liquefied natural gas tankers that will deliver the fuel to the buoys.
Each company plans to build or refit its own fleet of tankers designed to carry the supercooled liquid and to heat the fuel until it evaporates. The gas is pumped through the buoy to the Hubline pipe that runs from Salem to Quincy.
The tankers will have internal combustion engines that run on fossil fuels for propulsion and a separate fossil fuel engine to power a boiler designed to heat the liquefied natural gas. They will be required to have catalytic reduction and oxidation catalyst systems to reduce the amount of pollutants released into the air.
All public comments can be mailed to Brendan McCahill, Environmental Engineer, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - New England, 1 Congress St., Suite 1100, Attention CAP, Boston, MA 021144-2023. Comments must be postmarked no later than March 8.
A copy of the permit can be obtained for free at www.epa.gov/NE/communities/nsemissions.html, and Cahill can be reached for information at 617-918-1652 or by e-mail at McCahill.Brendan@epa.gov.