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Arab Port Deal Distorted for Political Gain

Recently, 8,600 U.S. companies have been taken over by foreign ownership, while 20 percent of all U.S. assets are held by foreigners. The politicians were silent. Now, a United Arab Emirates' enterprise will soon be operating stevedoring companies in six U.S. ports, including Baltimore's. Its Mayor, Martin O'Malley, almost broke a blood vessel complaining. However, he didn't say a word while the preceding British outfit was doing the work. Go figure!
Baltimore's Harbor
Baltimore's Harbor
A deal to permit an Arab company to do business in a number of East and Gulf coast ports in the U.S., has brought out the worst in some politicians, particularly, the Mayor of Baltimore, Martin O'Malley. He went over the top when he heard that an enterprise, Dubai Ports World, based in the United Arab Emirates, (UAE), and owned by that government, would soon be running some operations in the ports of Baltimore, New York, Newark, NJ, Philadelphia, Miami and New Orleans. The federal government has already given its approval to the proposal and said it had passed a "vigorous review," which included national security concerns. (1)

At a silly press conference, on Feb. 18, 2006, held at a waterfront site, next to blocks of ultra-luxurious condos, O'Malley, a Democratic candidate for governor of Maryland, ranted away to the TV cameras, about how it is "outrageous and irresponsible to turn over a port to any foreign government." One of his political cronies, the pro-Iraqi War congressman, Rep. C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger (D-MD), was also present. According to the Baltimore Sun, O'Malley accused the UAE of being a "key transfer point for nuclear components on their way to North Korea, Libya and Iran." (1) To his credit, O'Malley didn't blast the UAE for hiding Osama bin Laden, preparing to launch WMD at the U.S., or causing the Baltimore Ravens' NFL team to miserably flop again last year.

Here's the crux of the problem: O'Malley doesn't know what the hell he is talking about! Period! He also made a reference to the War of 1812-1814, and how the city had successfully defended itself against the British invasion and that somehow this proposed contract fits into that historic happening. That, too, is pure baloney! What O'Malley didn't reveal at the press conference was that the organization presently in charge of much of the stevedoring operations in Baltimore is - a British-based, privately owned outfit - Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, (P&O). It has been supervising "container cargo operations at the publicly owned Seagirt and Dundalk marine terminals" for the last few years. (1) This essential fact didn't seem to bother O'Malley's fragile psyche. Now, however, since, the P&O has recently been purchased by Dubai Ports World for $6.8 billion, he has chosen to go over the proverbial edge and use the incident to make a cheap political point or two. I hope the voters will see though this ploy.

The critical point is that Dubai Ports World won't be running the port of Baltimore, or any other U.S. port for that matter. What it would be doing, as ex-Rep. Helen Delich Bentley (R-MD), a respected expert on Maritime matters, explained in a Feb. 18th letter, to the "Baltimore Sun," is hiring the longshoremen to load and unload the cargo from the vessels. The Maryland Port Authority, an agency of the state, she underscored, would continue to "run the port of Baltimore's public terminals and be the spokesman for the port in general." Bentley added that this transaction only means that the "UAE's Dubai Ports World will be the firm bidding competitively for contracts to handle cargo coming off or loading on to ships in the six ports where P&O Ports has contracts. Baltimore is one of those ports." (2)

It is also important to emphasize that the vast majority of the cargo handling in the six U.S. ports mentioned above is done by union labor, who are locally based workers. They are card carrying members of the International Longshorman's Association (AFL-CIO), which is headquartered in New York City. This is the same union, (Local 829 ILA), that this writer belonged to, in Baltimore, back in the late 1950s. The idea that the longshoremen will somehow not be able to do the same kind of highly professional stevedoring work for Dubai, which they did for the P&O company, and other stevedoring companies before them, just doesn't fly. For the ILA member, it will be just another day's work on the docks, irrespective of who's doing the hiring.

Query! Where has O'Malley been on the important issue of foreign ownership of American industry? Recently, the bankrupt Bethlehem Steel's sprawling Sparrows Point Plant, located on the shores of the Patapso River, just southeast of the city, was purchased by a foreign conglomerate, Mittal Steel. It is controlled by a London-based tycoon, Lakshim Mittal, a native of India. (3) If O'Malley had any national security concerns about that massive deal, he has sure kept them to himself. There was no press conference at the Sparrows Point Plant on that one. In the last ten years alone, the U.S. economy has lost a staggering "8,600 of our best companies to foreign ownership." (4)

Here are some other shocking economic statistics for O'Malley to digest for his next camera mugging effort. In the past two decades: "The US federal deficit during the Ronald Reagan administration was $2 Trillion and it is now $8 Trillion. The US trade deficit has gone from $150 Billion per year to $726 Billion per year. $3.0 Trillion cumulatively over the past 20 years. And, $11 Trillion of US assets are now held in foreign hands, roughly 20% of all US assets." (4) If 20% of U.S. industry is in foreign hands today, what will it be like in another decade or two of gross indifference?

In summation, just because O'Malley is a wannabe governor for Maryland shouldn't give him a license to distort the facts in this matter in order to manipulate the fears of voters. Foreign ownership of U.S. industries should be of concern to all. The UAE-based company running a stevedore operation in six U.S. ports shouldn't, however, be one of them, especially with the ILA members doing the work. If any good comes out of this controversy, it may be for the elected politicians, and for the public, to pay closer attention to the larger, extremely distressing, economic picture. Our country is being de-industrialized by the decisions of Wirepullers based in Washington, D.C. and on Wall St. You think global warming is going to be a problem? Just wait for this Alan Greenspan-contrived economy to collapse, and it will, unless corrective measures are immediately taken. (5)

Notes:

1. "Deal Affecting Port Upsets Mayor," by Julie Bell, Baltimore Sun, 02/19/06.
2. "Port Administration Runs Region's Port," Letter to the Editor of the Baltimore Sun, 02/18/06, by Helen Delich Bentley.
3.  http://www.forbes.com/billionaires/2005/03/10/cx_pm_0310mittal_bill05.html
4.  http://www.economyincrisis.org/
5.  http://www.brillig.com/debt_clock/
* The Podcasts of William Hughes' "The BillyClub" are found here:  http://web.mac.com/bhughes2/iWeb/The%20BillyClub/Podcasting/Podcasting.html

William Hughes 2006

William Hughes is the author of "Saying 'No' to the War Party" (Iuniverse, Inc.). He can be reached at:  liamhughes@comcast.net.

homepage: homepage: http://home.comcast.net/~liamhughes/


yeah, but Dubai isn't the UK 20.Feb.2006 11:27

rATso

I don't think we have to worry about Queen Elizabeth blowing up Baltimore, now do we? Dubai's record on terrorism (especially financing) is legendary. Calling this a racist issue is BS. This is just another Bush/Cheney scam to get their oil buddies from the Mid East (let's hold hands) in control of America's security. What better way to instigate the next phase of 911? Now Bush can smuggle in all the terrorists and weapons he wants through the new 'black holes' of these ports. O'Malley's the only one with enough guts to really speak up. Remember that movie about a nuke smuggled into Baltimore? That's his city-maybe that vision is motivating him too. Using this as an excuse to cry 'racism!' is beyond belief. O'Malley's no Bush fan, that's for sure.

they still got the job 20.Feb.2006 16:24

TheTroll

And who was running air port security on 911???

even this article overtstates what P&O does in Baltimore 21.Feb.2006 18:20

j602

This is an excellent article, but even its description of various P&O lease and agreement positions is overstated. For example, P&O is one of four terminal operating companies at the Dundalk Marine Terminal. Two of the others are far, far larger: one is a Norwegian-Swedish ship line and the other is a Danish ship line. The fourth, about P&Os size, is a US-owned wood products terminal operator.

The idea P&O has "taken over" or "runs" that port or any US port is absurd. (I have NO idea why these plain facts are not being more clearly articulated by P&O, Dubai Ports, the Maryland Port Administration or the US government.)

The P&O position in New Orleans is to manage via a lease a set of aging warehouses along the river, and they have a middling lease position on yard space next to the port's oldest, least productive container terminal.

The New York (actually New Jersey) position is more significant: P&O manages one of the larger container terminals on a long-term lease from the port authority. Other companies, most of them foreign-owned, have similar leases on all sides of the P&O facility.

I do not know the exact position in Miami, except that P&O only is part owner of the positions in New York and Miami, so there is no actual "control."

In no sense are any of these port authorities giving up anything. Container terminals are typically managed, one by one in each port, to a variety of "terminal operating companies." P&O is one such company. A very large terminal of the Port of Long Beach (but one of many) -- its largest, glitziest terminal -- is operated by a company owned by the Red Chinese government.

Aside from the chairman, none of the senior management of Dubai Ports is Arab. They are all Anglo-surnames, Indian names, Asian names, etc. Their senior international manager is an American that recently was apponted to the Federal Maritime Administration--among our most important port-related posts, on the basis of his long and distinguished career--including with Dubai Ports!!

Indeed, mnost of the entire workforce of Dubai is non-Arab. It is the most westernized country in the Middle East. Why would we cut our links to this kind of positive momentum in this troubled region through these wild statements and political positions?

Just one year ago Dubai Ports purchased the CSX railroad's international port business. Why was that a non-event and this is such a firestorm?

What is this ridiculous fuss about?

Denmark? 21.Feb.2006 19:13

rAT

I don't think Norway, Sweden and Denmark are out to get us either. This poster obviously doesn't realize any of the awful truth behind 911. It was an INSIDE JOB. Let's not make it any easier for them next time. The Fox is guarding the whole henhouse now.

Bush is on a long road down 21.Feb.2006 19:16

shoes are untied, gonna fall

The point is on this whole thing, that a country such as the UAE has no business having that kind of control over incoming cargo. I would agree that the ChiComs in Long Beach should be kicked out too, but you have Bill Clinton to blame for that. So its really not surprising that HC and the rest of turncoat democrats whould be anixious for us to forget that by blowing this out of the water. But here's the thing, racist or not I don't want an ME company controling what comes into this country. Do you? Even if the War On Terror is a farce and the criminals within our government are far worse, our judgement should be better than this. The nice thing is the whimps on both sides of the aisle are coming together. Any thing that can be done to slow the bush agenda should be encouraged. Our ports are serious business, even if sadly the cargo that we export is just jobs and guns. Bush is a dumb ass to hang on to this one. You can see that he is a small minded fool that gets clouded by his terrible judgement and then follows his equally as bad instinct. I just hope that people can wake up and see that for years our government has allowed and encouraged the foriegn scrapping of our economy. Just like the junk yards that are now provideding armor for our HumVees, we are taking from our country not only our resources, but the things that made us great. I know a lot of people have lost favor to our country and the ideals that it was founded on because of the way they have been contorted within our lifetime, but the idea of America is still an iconic statement to the history of man. If only we could regain control of our run away republic. Are only hope is that we can somehow hold the miserables in Washington responsible and get our country back.

This mess we are in is our own fault...I wish I had the solution and maybe there isn't one, but we must find some hope where there is darkness abound.....

Sound Bites Rule 22.Feb.2006 09:14

lelande lelandegen@comcast.net

One can hear the rage on TV. "No Republican wants this. No democrat wants this." I haven't heard anyone speak to the issues as this article does. The commies are still after George W. and they have fallen into another Rove trap.

Have a good day. We can still sleep well at night.

death by a thousand cuts 26.Feb.2006 06:36

timid fool

The USA is in a disastrous position largely because of things like this port deal, which its supporters point out won't actually put control of the ports into the hands of foreigners. Each economic insult is never enough of a cut to our collective economic or political welfare that the common people rise up in outrage. As Helen Bentley says: "...it will be just another day's work on the docks, irrespective of who's doing the hiring." In other words, just keep your head down, protect your job and don't ask questions about things you have no knowledge of.
Well it is not just another day at the docks. It is not just another layoff or downsizing or offshore outsourcing - they never are - but that is how we always treat them. As long as I am still getting mine, who cares if you lost yours? And what can I do about it anyhow?
Call this issue a rallying cry of outrage against those who run things - they have gone too far this time. This is the thousandth cut. People aren't always stupid. We can read the signs when you hit us in the face with them.
Get the Teamsters angry and get the Longshoremen angry, and they can bring things to a sudden halt. Let this be the beginning of taking back power so we can actually help the victims of natural disasters, stop the madness in Iraq, stop the misuse of Eminent Domain and a thousand other outrages. I want to be proud of my country again.