EVERETT, Mass. People who live here, along the waterfront in view of the Tobin Bridge, are trying to get used to the enormous new neighbor in Boston Harbor — a 935-foot tanker carrying liquefied natural gas from Yemen. The ship arrived under heavy security early Tuesday morning, but now it rests there, quiet.
“Honestly, it’s not just a threat to this park, it’s a threat to this entire area,” said Chris Shoch, who lives around the corner in Chelsea and walks her dogs at the park on the waterfront nearly every day. “Boston’s right there.”
The tanker carried the first of a number of shipments of LNG from Yemen since the Coast Guard approved the deliveries earlier this month, despite the protests of Mayor Thomas Menino and other local officials.
Shoch said she feels helpless knowing that Menino opposes the tankers’ presence in Boston Harbor, and yet they’re arriving here anyway.
“Anything could happen, I don’t know what it would take, but I’m sure it wouldn’t take a lot,” Shoch said Tuesday.
The Yemeni tanker is certainly not the first LNG tanker to arrive safely in Boston Harbor — these vessels have come and gone for decades. And they have always made Shoch somewhat uneasy.
“If it’s from Yemen or if it’s from Jersey, like, somebody could infiltrate whatever system that they’re trying to,” she said. “If there are terrorists that hate us, they’re going to hate us no matter where they’re from and they’ll do what they want to do — or they’ll try.”
Shoch’s friend, Emily Flohre, also of Chelsea, had heard the “hype” surrounding the tankers, but she was surprised to learn that one of them was the big ship docked just a few hundred yards from where she stood. “No idea that they were coming so soon,” she said.
Flohre thinks much of the controversy around the tankers stems from the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a Detroit-bound plane. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the young Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up the plane, traveled twice in recent years to Yemen, a country with a growing reputation as a haven for terrorists.
“I don’t think it would have been as big (of a deal) if that wouldn’t have happened,” Flohre said. “I’m a bit concerned, but I think it doesn’t necessarily have to come from a place like that if something’s going to happen.”
Up the street from the park, at Scrap It, a junk-metal disposal company, supervisor Michael Shiner, of Wakefield, was unaware of the story behind the tanker moored a few blocks from his workplace.
“How do we know they’re not sending over just a bomb to blow us up,” he asked, when told of its significance. “You know?”
As far as Shiner had known, this was just another tanker like the ones that come into the harbor all the time to pick up his scrap iron and take it overseas. “That’s the whole process and basis of us making money,” he said.
But this tanker was allowed in to Boston Harbor only after a yearlong review of LNG deliveries from Yemen by the U.S. Coast Guard. Massachusetts State Police and Boston Police escorted the tanker into the harbor. The Coast Guard said it put in extra security measures for the tanker because of Yemen’s strong ties to al-Qaida, including boarding the tanker out at sea to inspect it for proper documentation and possible stowaways.
“I don’t believe that anything’s safe that the government says,” Shiner said. “Because there’s so many lies and stuff out there that if everything’s supposed to be safe, why do all these things still happen? If everything’s safe, why did 9/11 happen? If everything’s safe, how do these people still get on planes and stuff?”
Menino and Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo have pushed for an offshore terminal that would let the tankers offload their cargo without entering the heavily populated inner harbor. Federal officials rejected the idea, but Menino says he will keep fighting to block the vessels.
“What bigger of a place to hit, besides New York, than Boston?” Shiner said.
But for Shoch and Flohre, out walking their dogs against the backdrop of the tanker, the perceived threat isn’t enough to change their daily routine. They said they’ll keep coming to the park every day, the same as always.