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American Shipper

P&O to hit Eller with $450,000 tab for court costs

P&O to hit Eller with $450,000 tab for court costs

   The company that filed objections in British court to try and halt the sale of terminal operator Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. to state-owned Dubai Ports World may now have to pay P&O’s court costs.

   DP World completed its $6.8-billion takeover of P&O last week, over the objections of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Eller & Co., which co-owns part of a terminal in the Port of Miami through a joint venture with a P&O subsidiary. Eller argued that Dubai’s links to terrorism could cause U.S. authorities to block the deal or revoke operating leases and cost Eller $150 million in lost business at the port. Eller’s U.K. lawyer also claimed that companies have threatened to withdraw business from terminals operated by DP World.

   Eller also filed a similar suit in Florida seeking compensation over long-standing grievances with P&O and an end to the sale because its Miami-based subsidiary, Continental Stevedoring and Terminals, was involuntarily dragged into a partnership with DP World.

   Britain’s High Court dismissed Eller’s claims and denied Eller’s request for an appeal, although the proceedings forced P&O to delay finalizing the sale for six days until March 8.

   The judge declared that Eller filed a nuisance suit without merit and is responsible for P&O’s court costs, which could amount to $450,000, Robert Scavone, executive vice president of P&O Ports North America told Shippers’ News Wire.

   P&O is in the process of assembling its legal bills to present to the court for review, he said.

   Michael Kreitzer, Eller’s U.S.-based lawyer, said he hasn’t heard whether or not Eller will be held accountable for P&O’s defense costs.

   “We don’t think we should pay. We participated in a hearing which was mandatory, we filed objections to the proceedings, and ultimately we don’t think that will obligate us to pay fees,” he said.

   DP World is still in embroiled in a political quagmire over its assets in the United States. Backed by overwhelming public opinion against the deal, the Congress has challenged President Bush’s approval of the transfer of 22 facilities, including terminals in six major ports. The House is expected to pass legislation today or tomorrow prohibiting DP World from owning or operating U.S. port facilities. Last week the House Appropriations Committee voted 62-2 to attach the measure to an emergency bill funding Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts.

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