Update 1 – 4.55 pm Pacific
A $6.8 billion Adminstration-backed deal that would allow a United Arab Emirates company to manage major
US ports — New York-New Jersey (Port Newark Container Terminal – NJ as well as the New York City Passenger Ship Terminal), Philadelphia (multiple facilities), Baltimore (multiple facilities), Miami (Port of Miami Terminal Operating Co.) and New Orleans (multiple facilities) — is drawing increasing bi-partisan cricitism (from lawmakers and bloggers) as well as a lawsuit challenging the sale.
Dubai-headquartered DP World is seeking to purchase UK-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, the number four port management company in the world; the new firm would be number three, behind Hong Kong’s Hutchison Whampoa Ltd and Singapore’s PSA International.
Moreover, information from P&O suggests far more ports that those five ares are affected: 23 facilities – from Maine to Texas – appear to be under P&O ownership or management.
On 13 February, shareholders of P&O approved the sale to DP World and the firm expects court approval on 2 March; neither firm is commenting on the current hoopla in the US, which may be too little, too late, to stop the sale from going through.
US outcry came on the heels of that vote, when news reports last week revealed that the Treasury Department’s Committee on Foreign Investment, under Exon-Floria, approved the sale as having no impact on national security. The 12 people making this decision do not provide an independent assessment as all are Bush appointees: the Secretaries of State, the Treasury, Defense, Homeland Security, and Commerce; the United States Trade Representative; the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers; the Attorney General; the Director of the Office of Management and Budget; the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy; the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs; and the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy. (pdf).
The review took place quietly in a 30-day window for decision-making; the committee declined its right to extend the review another 45 days. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) has also called for further scrutiny.
In Miami, Continental Stevedoring & Terminals Inc. (a subsidiary of Eller & Company Inc.) is challenging the deal due to its forcing the firm to become an “involuntary partner” with the government of United Arab Emirates, which owns the Dubai-based firm. In addition, the lawsuit contends that the sale “may endanger the national security of the United States.”
AP reports that “The Port of Miami is among the nation’s busiest. It is a hub for the nation’s cruise ships, which carry more than 6 million passengers a year, and the seaport services more than 30 ocean carriers, which delivered more than 1 million cargo containers there last year.”
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-SC), on Fox News Sunday: “It’s unbelievably tone deaf politically at this point in our history.”
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, (R-FL) chair of a subcommittee on the Middle East, has called for a ”full investigation. ”
And Peter Gadiel, who heads 9/11 Families for a Secure America, “think[s] the President’s gone insane” because two of the 9/11 hijakcers were citizens of Dubai. (tip) Also, “many” of the hijackers traveled through UAE; “after the attacks, U.S.Treasury Department officials complained about a lack of cooperation by the UAE and other Arab countries trying to track Osama bin Laden’s bank accounts.”
The 9/11 Commission identified US ports as a weakness in the nation’s infrastructure. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says that only 5 percent of the cargo that enters the US is inspected.
The Houston Conservative writes:
Stop the presses…I find myself agreeing with Boxer and Schumer? Yep believe it or not, I do not believe this is a good idea… it just doesn’t FEEL RIGHT to have mission critical facilities under the control of a foreign power, no matter how benevolent and benign we may believe them to be … This is stupid, it’s bad policy and it’s bad politics.
Rep. Peter King (R-NY) told the WaPo that US terms approving the sale “don’t address the underlying conditions, which is how are they going to guard against things like infiltration by al Qaeda or someone else, how are they going to guard against corruption?”
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff defended the security review on ABC’s Sunday political talk show.
The scale of these operations appears to be enormous.
Information from the P&O website suggests, for example, that “Philadelphia” is much larger than the city:
P&O Ports North America, Inc. is a 50% joint venture partner in Delaware River Stevedores (DRS), which provides stevedoring and terminal services in Philadelphia, PA, Camden, NJ, and Wilmington, DE.
Another link on the P&O website has a list of P&O involvement in far more ports than the six areas mentioned in mainstream media.
This article first appeared at
US Politics @ About.com