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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Jumping the Port Shark

I admit that I have not paid a great deal of attention to the DP World “takeover” of several US ports. It is hard to focus on pressing issues when you are fighting a severe bout of bronchitis. Now that I am back from my cough medicine induced stupor, I have had a chance to do some reading and research on the whole port issue.

When I first started reading the stories about the Dubai Ports World buyout of the P & O Company from Great Britain I was genuinely concerned. Like many Americans, my first thought was “Damn George – what were you thinking?” But the increased frenzy over the situation, including the outrage from Chucky Schumer and Hillary, gave me a moment to pause. Neither really fought for national security unless it was a bash Bush opportunity, so the motivation of the two Senators was suspect.

According to published press releases, DP World put out an offer on Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company on November 29, 2005. DP World ended up in a bidding war for P & O with the Singapore based PSA Company. The deal with P & O was finalized in early Feb. 2006. During this time, the US Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) was reviewing the potential sale and found no objections. CFIUS consists of representatives from the departments of Treasury, Defense, Justice, Commerce, State and Homeland Security.

On Feb. 18, the mayor of Baltimore, Martin O’Malley, held a press conference and blasted the Bush Administration’s irresponsibility to “turn over a port to any foreign government”. O’Malley also accused the UAE of being a “key transfer point for nuclear components on their way to North Korea, Libya and Iran.” (a point picked up and repeated in almost every newswire story involving the ports issue). Then came Chuck followed by Hillary and a host of other foot stomping politicians. Now keep in mind that this deal had been brewing since November 29, 2005. It was all over the financial pages and the implications of the sale of P & O had to be obvious. This was not a spur of the moment transaction done in a media vacuum. It also bears to mention that O’Malley is a Democratic candidate for governor of Maryland.

Compounding the issue is the absolute hysteria in the media. It is extremely difficult to find a story anywhere that does not have some claim of “turning over the ports” or “giving our port security away”. The media is just repeating knee jerk reactions and is (surprise, surprise) completely off the mark. Dubai Ports World will NOT be running any US port. The various state Port Authorities will continue to control the public terminals and serve as representatives for the ports. The cargo handling will still be done by union labor from the International Longshoreman’s Association. Security will still be the responsibility of the United States Coast Guard and the Port Authorities. According to ex. Rep Helen Delich Bentley (R-MD) who is an expert in Maritime matters, “Dubai Ports World will be the firm bidding competitively for contracts to handle cargo coming off or loading on to ships in the designated ports.” Period – that’s all.

Next is the issue of why no American company has the contracts. There is NO American company that performs the services that DP World offers. That is the reason that the UK based company, P & O was in charge. This is not a new situation or one that was hidden from the public.

That leaves the issue of UAE’s terrorist ties. There is no doubt that two of the 9/11 hijackers were from UAE. But how many US citizens have been arrested for suspicion of terrorist activity? The London bombers were British citizens but the UK is still our strongest ally. Since September 11, 2001, the UAE has opened the country’s banking and financial records for scrutiny by terrorism investigators and regulatory agencies. The UAE has been given a clean “bill of health” from Washington and other Western governments.

On December 12, 2004, the UAE became the first Middle Eastern country to join the Container Security Initiative (CSI) in conjunction with US Customs and Border Protection. A team from US Customs and Border Protection worked with UAE government personnel to target high-risk cargo containers destined for the USA. Any containers identified as potential terrorist risk are screened by the Dubai Customs Administration before they are loaded for shipment to the USA. The CSI program is still in effect with UAE remaining an active partner.

In February 2005, USAID partnered with the Dubai Ports Authority (DPA) to open the first long-term overseas facility for the pre-positioning of critically needed humanitarian food relief commodities in Dubai. The pre-positioning of relief supplies is vital to an efficient logistics chain for distribution of supplies following a disaster.

DP World is not some fly by night corporation. It is the largest Dubai overseas investor. Other Dubai based companies, such as Dubai International Capital, are major investors in Daimler Chrysler, The Tussauds Group and Dubai Towers in Istanbul. Dubai Holdings took over management of the Essex House Hotel in New York in 2005. Dubai Holdings is also invested in and refurbishing the Lowndes Hotel in London. Istithmar, another Dubai investment group, purchased the Helmsley Building on Park Avenue and One Trafalgar Square in London.

When you look at the facts, without the hyperbole from Schumer, O’Malley, Hillary and the sycophant media, the issue with the ports looks much less ominous. Everyone needs to take a step back and research the information before jumping the shark. Remember who has been fighting for national security since September 11, 2001 without wavering or compromise. I don’t think you’ll be thinking of Chuck or Hillary.

"UAE Seeks to Ease US Senators Concern over Ports"
"Port Administration Runs Regions Port" - Letter to the editor of Baltimore Sun 2/18/06 by Helen Delich Bentley
"Dubai May Touch Dh55b Mark"
"Port of Dubai to Implement the Container Security Initiative and Being Targeting and Pre-Screening Cargo Destined for US"
"USAID partners with Dubai Ports Authority and Dubai Aid City"
"Feds' OK clears way for Port Deal"

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