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UAE Company Wants Berths In 6 US Ports

You really have to wonder if this is really a good idea.

From the DNC's Associated Press:

Cargo containers are loaded in Baltimore, Md. The Port of Baltimore is one of the nation's most important seaports, and it's among the six due to be sold to a UAE company.

Arab firm may run 6 U.S. ports

February 12, 2006

WASHINGTON — A company in the United Arab Emirates is poised to take over significant operations at six U.S. ports as part of a corporate sale, leaving a country with ties to the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers with influence over a maritime industry considered vulnerable to terrorism.

The Bush administration considers the UAE an important ally in the fight against terrorism since the suicide hijackings and is not objecting to Dubai Ports World's (DP World) purchase of London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation.

The $6.8 billion sale is expected to be approved Monday. The British company is the fourth-largest ports company in the world and its sale would affect commercial U.S. port operations in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia.

DP World said it won approval from a secretive U.S. government panel that considers security risks of foreign companies buying or investing in U.S. industry.

The U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States "thoroughly reviewed the potential transaction and … had no objection," the company said.

The committee earlier agreed to consider concerns about the deal as expressed by Miami-based Eller & Co., according to Eller's lawyer, Michael Kreitzer. Eller is a business partner with the British shipping giant but was not in the running to buy the ports company.

The committee includes representatives from the departments of Treasury, Defense, Justice, Commerce, State and Homeland Security.

The State Department describes the UAE as a vital partner in the fight against terrorism.

But the UAE, a loose federation of seven emirates on the Saudi peninsula, was an important operational and financial base for the hijackers who flew two 757 and two 767 jetliners into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, killing nearly 3,000 Americans in the nation's deadliest terrorist attack, the FBI concluded.

Last month, the White House appointed a senior DP World executive, David Sanborn of Virginia, as new administrator of the Maritime Administration of the Transportation Department. Sanborn worked as DP World's director of operations for Europe and Latin America.

Critics of the proposed purchase said a port operator complicit in smuggling or terrorism could manipulate manifests and other records to frustrate Homeland Security's limited scrutiny of shipping containers and slip contraband past U.S. Customs inspectors.

"When you have a foreign government involved, you are injecting foreign national interests," Kreitzer said. "A country that may be a friend of ours today may not be on the same side tomorrow. You don't know in advance what the politics of that country will be in the future."

Shipping experts pointed to DP World's economic interest in operating ports securely and efficiently.

"Does this pose a national-security risk? I think that's pushing the envelope," said Stephen Flynn, who studies maritime security at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Pushing the envelope? I'm afraid they could be doing a lot more than that.

Besides the obvious opportunities this affords terrorists, will these ports be allowed to carry harramobjects, such as alcohol, Bibles, TVs, and cartoons of Mohammad — or anything going to or from Israel?

Ah, I guess none of that is important. It's just business.

(Thanks to DW and Sheehanjihad for the heads up.)

This article was posted by Steve on Sunday, February 12th, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

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