Lautenberg bill to help ports bust leases
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., said he plans to introduce a bill this week giving port authorities the power to protect themselves by terminating any lease when they can show that transfer of terminal ownership would affect the security of the port.
The bill would also require the Department of Homeland Security to review any change of ownership of a terminal operator for security problems.
The governors of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland quickly opposed the sale of P&O Ports assets in their ports, saying the federal government did not provide them with the information necessary to determine that the new tenant, DP World, would meet security requirements.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey filed suit last week seeking permission to break its lease with P&O Ports, saying that the British port operator violated a “change-of-control” provision that requires port authority permission for a transfer in terminal ownership. The state of New Jersey filed suit to block DP World from taking over the Port Newark Container Terminal until federal authorities conduct a full investigation of the deal.
But some of those state officials have now softened their objections towards the sale. Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich, a Republican, now says it is unlikely he will try to block the sale after learning more about the DP World acquisition, although Democrats in the state legislature have called on the governor, who is gearing up for re-election this year, to break the contract between the Port of Baltimore and P&O.
“I’m not sure we want to kill the deal,” Bruce Blakeman, a commissioner for the Port of New York-New Jersey said Saturday on Fox News. “We have a fiduciary responsibility to protect our citizens, so we want more information from the government.”
DP World “may be a very responsible entity, but we are operating in the dark,” he said, adding that the commission has not made a final judgment about leasing terminal space to DP World.