U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr., R-Calif., told President Donald Trump that he has national security concerns about the global port operator, which plans to lease the port for 50 years.
U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr., R-Calif., chairman of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, asked President Donald Trump in a letter to “place a hold on” a plan by Delaware to lease the Port of Wilmington to Gulftainer Group “until the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) can fully investigate the national security implications of this deal.”
Delaware announced a preliminary agreement to lease the port to the United Arab Emirates-based port operator in March and it was approved by the board of directors of the Diamond State Port Corp., the state entity that owns and operates the port, on April 6.
Hunter previously had requested a review in 2014 of Gulftainer when it first entered the U.S. market with plans to operate in Port Canaveral, Fla. That deal went forward and Gulftainer has operated the container terminal in Port Canaveral since 2015.
Hunter said that with the Port Canaveral deal, he had “outlined several national security concerns, including the proximity to critical assets and the necessity to ensure incoming shipments are properly screened and inspected,” and added that his “concerns remain.”
“Several news reports indicate a family connection between the officers of the company and Dr. Jafar Dhia Jafar, a top Iraqi nuclear scientist during Sadam Hussein’s regime,” Hunter said in his letter. “Given the Port of Wilmington’s proximity to several military installations, and its strategic location on the Delaware River, foreign control of such an important asset deserves a full review.”
Some of the strongest criticism of the deal comes from an organization called the Center for Security Policy and its president, Frank Gaffney.
Peter Richards, Gulftainer group chief executive officer and head of its U.S. arm, GT USA, denounced the criticism, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported last week. He said the company was open to review by all federal authorities.
“I can tell you now that Gulftainer never has, never will have, anything to do with terrorism, with dirty money,” he told the Inquirer.
Under the terms of the preliminary agreement, “Gulftainer’s subsidiary GT USA would make annual royalty payments to the State of Delaware reaching an estimated $13 million over the next decade,” according to a press release issued by Gov. John Carney’s office. “The company also would agree to invest more than $580 million in the port over the next nine years, including approximately $410 million for a new container facility at DuPont’s former Edgemoor site, which was acquired by the Diamond State Port Corporation in 2016.”
The Diamond State Port Corp. said, “The terms of our agreement with Gulftainer already require all necessary federal approvals, including the CFIUS review, to be completed successfully before we move forward with the concession.”
Hunter also had been a strong opponent of the proposed acquisition of San Diego-based Qualcomm by Broadcom Ltd. and praised Trump’s decision to block that deal, telling him it “demonstrated your strong resolve to protect our country’s national security interests.”