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American Shipper

Lawmakers mount campaign to review DP World port deal

Lawmakers mount campaign to review DP World port deal

   Several U.S. lawmakers are objecting to the Bush administration’s approval of Dubai Ports World’s $6.8 billion acquisition of London-based ports group Peninsular and Oriental Steamship Navigation Co., and want the White House to take a closer look at the deal that would put terminals at six U.S. ports under control of the Dubai state-owned port operator.

   Dubai is part of the United Arab Emirates, which the lawmakers contend had ties to the Sept. 11, 2001 hijackers. The Bush administration considers the U.A.E. an ally in the war on terror, but the FBI concluded that some of the hijackers passed through the country and had cash wired from there.

   P&O operates port facilities in New York-New Jersey, Baltimore, Miami, New Orleans and Philadelphia.

   The U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a group comprised of secretaries from the departments of Homeland Security, Defense, Treasury, Justice, Commerce and State that reviews proposed mergers and acquisitions to make sure they have no adverse impact on U.S. national security, did not object to the transaction. The committee looked into the sale after Eller & Co., a Miami-based stevedore that handles ships for P&O, expressed concern, according to an Associated Press report this week.

   Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Tom Coburn, R-Okla., Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and Chris Dodd, D-Conn., along with Reps. Vito Fosella, R-N.Y., Chris Shays, R-Conn., and Mark Foley, R-Fla., announced plans to ask the Treasury Department to more thoroughly review the link-up between DP World and P&O to make sure it doesn’t jeopardize U.S. security.

   Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, asked the White House to reconsider approval of the sale.

   The campaign against DP World is picking up some steam as editorials in several newspapers expressed opposition to having a country they claim is a staging ground for Al Qaeda operate sensitive port operations in the United States.

   Maritime security has become a top government priority since 9/11 because of fears that terrorists might try to use an international container to smuggle themselves or a mass destruction weapon into the country for an attack.

      On Monday, P&O shareholders voted for the sale to DP World. The takeover is expected to be completed March 2 and would make DP World the world’s third-largest port operator with a combined throughput of more than 33.3 million TEUs. DP World operates ports in Europe, Asia, South America and the Middle East.

   In January, President Bush nominated DP World executive David Sanborn to head the Maritime Administration.

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