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'Port' deal is misnomered
February 27, 2006
The Sentinel on Friday carried a story
by Bay City News Service's Jason Benner regarding the outcry over
Dubai Ports World's proposed acquisition of P&O Ports.
Benner said the deal would mean that DPW would operate six major
U.S. Atlantic ports.
It's not so.
P&O Ports does not run any U.S. port. It manages or co-manages
a single cargo terminal at each of several U.S. ports. If the
acquisition goes through, DPW would replace P&O in that role.
Note the difference: most U.S. ports, even the smaller ones,
comprise multiple cargo-handling and/or passenger-processing terminals
(some also accommodate other activities such as fishing, fish
processing and recreational boating).
Oversight of all waterfront activities rests with port or harbor
administrations, which are public entities. DPW's acquisition
of P&O would not change that. And to my knowledge, at no U.S.
port does a single company operate all the terminals.
The entire discourse on this matter has lacked a clear distinction
-- or even a fuzzy one -- between a "port" and a "terminal."
The problem is that members of Congress have mischaracterized
the DPW-P&O deal from the start, and most journalists and
news outlets -- including the likes of the San Francisco Chronicle,
the Associated Press, Reuters and the New York Times -- have simply
parroted the fallacy instead of doing any research to learn whether
the politicians' claims were even half true.
Moreover, ships from Arab countries have for many decades been
visiting American ports, drawing nary a peep. Russia's Far Eastern
Shipping Co. has been sending its vessels to U.S. ports since
the Cold War, and the only complaints about it came from rival
companies that accused the carrier of below-cost pricing policies.
We can argue over the validity of the security concerns surrounding
the DPW-P&O deal; in fact, we SHOULD argue about it. Vigorous
debate is always healthy. But the context needs to be accurate.
Richard Knee is a San Francisco-based freelance journalist.
He has been writing almost exclusively about freight-related issues
for about 25 years.E-mail him at email@example.com.
here for Richard Knee archive.