Marine Log

February 17, 2006

Menendez and Clinton bill would block Dubai ports deal

United States Senators Robert Menendez and Hillary Clinton announced today that they are introducing legislation to prohibit companies owned or controlled by foreign governments from purchasing port operations in the United States. They say the legislation would block such transactions as the proposed sale of operations at six major U.S. ports to Dubai Ports World, a company owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates.

"Our ports are the front lines of the war on terrorism. They are both vulnerable targets for attack and venues for smuggling and human trafficking," Menendez said. "We wouldn't turn the border patrol or the customs service over to a foreign government, and we can't afford to turn our ports over to one either."

"Our port security is too important to place in the hands of foreign governments," Clinton said. "I will be working with Senator Menendez to introduce legislation that will prohibit the sale of ports to foreign governments."

Dubai Ports World has announced plans to buy P&O Ports, the British-based company that runs commercial operation at ports in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia, as well as other U.S. cities. The transaction was reviewed and approved by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a committee made up of representatives of different government departments and agencies, and seems headed for completion unless blocked by Congress.

"The Bush administration has neglected port security for years, and now they're ready to turn port operations over to the control of a foreign government that is a known transit point for smuggled nuclear technology," Menendez said. "Congress must act to protect our security."

The White House seems to think that the Dubai deal is not a security concern.

At a press briefing earlier this week spokesman Scott McClellan said: "this went through the national security review process under CFIUS, at the Department of Treasury. That is the agency that is responsible for overseeing such matters. And this includes a number of national security agencies -- the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, the Justice, among others, and there is a rigorous review that goes on for proposed foreign investments for national security concerns."

In the U.K., meantime, Reuters reports a spokesman for the Department for Transport's security division, TRANSEC, as saying that Dubai Ports World's takeover of P&O's terminals in Southampton and Tilbury would not compromise maritime security.

"It's immaterial who owns anything here as long as the ports themselves meet the security requirements. And if they don't meet them, then we have power to do something about it," the unnamed spokesman reportedly said