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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Dubai Ports World Controversy

The DP World controversy began in February 2006 and rose to prominence as a national security debate in the United States. At issue was the sale of port management businesses in six major U.S. seaports to a company based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and whether such a sale would compromise port security.
The controversy pertained to management contracts of six major United States ports. The purchaser was DP World (DPW), a state-owned company in the UAE. The contracts had already been foreign-owned, by Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O), a British firm taken over by DPW (completed in March 2006). Although the sale was approved by the executive branch of the United States Government, various United States political figures argued that the takeover would compromise U.S. port security.
U.S. President George W. Bush argued vigorously for the approval of the deal, claiming that the delay sends the wrong message to U.S. allies. Legislation was introduced to the United States Congress to delay the sale.

The objections to approving the sale centered on arguments about who controls U.S. ports, especially after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Some opposed to the sale have argued that no foreign government should be permitted to own such strategic assets while others argue that port security should remain in the hands of American firms under American control at the very least. Few had offered similar objections to the P&O's ownership, until the proposed DPW takeover brought attention to the situation. Over 80 percent of the terminals in the USA are already controlled by foreign owners. While the UAE's past actions regarding funding terrorist organizations (notably Hamas) and DPW's state-ownership increased discomfort across major party lines in the United States few thought to reflect that significantly more holders of British passports are in Guantanamo Bay than Emirati.

The objections commonly raised in public discourse differ from those lodged by Eller & Company, the Florida firm responsible for bringing national attention to the deal. Eller has two joint ventures with P&O and it feared becoming an "involuntary partner of DP World". For them, business rather than security or concerns over the approval process were the overriding factors driving their lobbying efforts to sink the deal. In fact, Eller & Company has a disreputable history and several exposes have been written about them by prominent print media.

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