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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Port security- the real issues

Nicely done explanation of the real port security issues here:
Ultimately, U.S. ports to a large extent are dependent on security measures in foreign ports, making the issue a global problem, experts say. Mr. Flynn points out that Israel operates one of the most comprehensive security systems in the world, and yet found itself nearly facing catastrophe because it had no control over cargo security procedures at the foreign port where the suicide bombers smuggled themselves into a container.
Congress will, I am sure, be able to confuse the issue as the silly political games continue.

And some reality from the Baltimore Sun here:
Just about any given time, it's possible to find a Greek-owned ship flying a Liberian flag, employing a Filipino crew and carrying cargo from China into a U.S. port terminal managed by a British company that hires American longshoremen.

This is how Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Target and others get their socks and stereos for the U.S. consumer.

So, some in the shipping industry have been taken aback in the past week by growing criticism in Washington and in state capitals to a deal that would transfer control over some operations in several major U.S. ports from a British company to one owned by the government of Dubai.

"To be fair, we're on the edge of the world and we haven't done a good job explaining how we work, so people are confused by it," said Art Wong, a spokesman for the port of Long Beach, near Los Angeles.

...In the major U.S. ports where Dubai Ports World would operate terminals - Baltimore, New York, New Jersey, Miami, New Orleans and Philadelphia - many of the shipping lines, the stevedores that load and unload ships and terminal operators have foreign owners.

The top 10 containership fleets are based in Denmark, Switzerland, Taiwan, China, Germany, France, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore, said Peter S. Shaerf, managing director of AMA Capital Partners LLC, a merchant banking firm that focuses on the maritime and transportation industries. All call on U.S. ports, and some of the shipping lines manage terminals.

..."The real risk is in a poorly run port. A badly run port is more of a terrorist target than perceived bad ownership," Shaerf said. "This is an international business. If you welcome their commerce, you have to welcome them."

Many U.S. ports, including Baltimore's, have offices and agents overseas to drum up business from foreign companies. Some want shipping lines to visit their terminals, and some want them to run and invest in their operations.

Cosco (owned by the Chinese government) was operating at Long Beach when the political questions arose in 2000, Wong said. The company still operates there, bigger than ever because of record imports coming to the West Coast from Asia. Although Cosco was barred from moving to the former Navy location, other companies moved to that site, freeing land around Cosco's operation where it could expand.
By its very nature, sea transportation is an international busniness.

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