THE political storm in Washington over the prospect of an Arab company buying some US port facilities is causing many of the country's business leaders deep embarrassment, writes Janet Porter in Long Beach.
Most of those directly involved in the ports, shipping or logistics industries do not share the view that the takeover of P&O's US port facilities by DP World poses any security threat.
Many are shocked by the level of ignorance about how their industry works and as surprised as those outside the US about why a well publicized acquisition that had been under negotiation for several months suddenly ran into so much controversy.
Congress is showing everyone that they care nothing about transportation security. All they care about is appearing to care about transportation security to their voters who know nothing about the maritime industry. Killing this deal will do nothing about the other terminals operated by other foreign companies. Killing this deal will not undo DP Port World's 2004 purchase of US-based Terminal Operator CSX World Terminals. (Which was completed without a peep out of Congress.)
A poll of delegates planning to attend this week's Trans-Pacific Maritime Conference in Long Beach found that 58% did not feel the acquisition would increase the security risk for the US.
That sentiment was repeated time and again during the opening day of the conference attended by more than 1,100 industry professionals.
The majority see the deal as a straightforward commercial transaction and say those in Congress opposed to the sale are using scaremongering tactics for their own political purposes that have little to do with genuine security issues.
Christopher Koch, president of the Washington-based World Shipping Council, spoke for many when he described the outcry as xenophobic.
"Those who work in the international logistics field are not generally worried about this transaction," said Peter Tirschwell, editorial director of the Journal of Commerce, which conducted the poll.
However, respondents also said that supply chains overall are not safe enough, with an overwhelming 84% answering "no" to a question about whether supply chains are safe enough. (Hello Congress!!!)
The effectiveness of security still varies considerably from one facility to another, said Sean Strawbridge, vice president of the IT firm Embarcadero Systems Corp.
One potential weak spot is the screening of personnel allowed into ports with a national credentialing programme one way of tightening the level of port security in the US. - Lloydslist
LEGISLATION now before Congress to tighten waterfront security following the political hysteria over DP World's acquisition of P&O could make inefficient US ports even slower and more congested, transport industry leaders are warning.
In the past fortnight since Washington woke up to the fact that P&O was about to be sold to a Dubai company, eleven separate pieces of draft legislation have been tabled.
The most extreme calls for every container arriving in the US to be screened. Another, introduced by Congressman Duncan Hunter, would ban any foreign ownership of critical infrastructure. That would force those companies that already own US assets that become classified as critical by the Department of Homeland Security to sell, even if they come from a country regarded by the US as friendly such as Britain.
At this stage, those working in the US shipping, ports and logistics industries have no idea about the final shape of any new regulations that may be passed following the sudden panic about security on the waterfront.
They fear, however, that the end result may be very counter-productive, with lawmakers paying little attention to the advice of those who understand how terminals operate. - Lloydslist
Industry chiefs slam "ignorant, scaremongering" over DP World - Lloydslist
US port operators warn against extra legislation - Lloydslist (By Janet Porter in Long Beach)
A Spoonful Of Panic Helps The Majority Go Down - Captain's Quarters
FAQ on ISPS Code and maritime security - IMO
PortGate: Republicans Turn on President Bush — And What Will It Cost Us? - California Conservative
Previous Port Hysteria Posts:
NJ Senator Lautenberg - "Dubai Hysteria" Victim - 8 March 06
Try this Port threat on for Size - 20 February 06
UAE DP World Port Deal is a Non-Issue - 19 February 06