WASHINGTON – Two Republican governors on Monday questioned a Bush administration decision allowing an Arab-owned company to operate six major U.S. ports, saying they may try to cancel lease arrangements at ports in their states.
New York Gov. George Pataki and Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich voiced doubts about the acquisition of a British company that has been running the U.S. ports by Dubai Ports World, a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates.
The British company, Peninsular and Oriental, runs major commercial operations at ports in Baltimore, Miami, New Jersey, New Orleans, New York and Philadelphia.
“Ensuring the security of New York’s port operations is paramount and I am very concerned with the purchase of Peninsular &Oriental Steam by Dubai Ports World,” Pataki said in a news release.
“I have directed the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to explore all legal options that may be available to them in regards to this transaction,” said the New York governor, who is still in the hospital recovering from an appendectomy.
Ehrlich, concerned about security at the Port of Baltimore, said Monday he is “very troubled” that Maryland officials got no advance notice before the Bush administration approved an Arab company’s takeover of the operations at the six ports.
“We needed to know before this was a done deal, given the state of where we are concerning security,” Ehrlich said.
The state of Maryland is considering its options, up to and including voiding the contract for the Port of Baltimore, Ehrlich said.
New York’s legal options could include canceling the lease for operation, effectively shutting out Dubai Ports World from port activities. P&O signed a 30-year lease with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in 2000 to operate the Port Newark Container Terminal.
Critics have cited the UAE’s history as an operational and financial base for the hijackers who carried out the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In addition, they contend the UAE was an important transfer point for shipments of smuggled nuclear components sent to Iran, North Korea and Libya by a Pakistani scientist.