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February 23, 2006

G-I Pelorus: UAE Acquisition of U.S. Port Terminal Facility Operations

To save you the trouble of calling your local Coast Guard office and asking what they think about the pending sale of P&O to Dubai Ports World - here is their public affairs guidance to the people you'd ask those questions of:

G-I Pelorus: UAE Acquisition of U.S. Port Terminal Facility Operations

Communication Objective:
Delineate the Coast Guard’s role & responsibilities for enforcing security compliance at U.S. ports in light of the pending acquisition of several U.S. port terminal facility operations owned by P&O Steamship Navigation Co. by Dubai Ports World,UAE.

Background: It was recently reported that the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a 12-member panel chaired by the Secretary of the Treasury and comprised of members of the departments of State, Defense, Justice, Commerce and Homeland Security approved the $6.8 billion sale of terminal facility operations in at least six major U.S. ports operated by British-owned Peninsular & Oriental Steamship Co. (P&O) to Dubai Ports World, a government-owned company of the United Arab Emirates. P&O currently runs commercial operations in the ports of New York, New Jersey, Norfolk, New Orleans, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Miami, and Houston. As a component agency of DHS, the Coast Guard was asked to provide information and expertise to DHS necessary for its consideration when reviewing the acquisition proposed by DPW. Some lawmakers are considering legislation to either stop or delay the acquisition citing port security concerns. The President indicated he’d veto legislation aimed at delaying or stopping the transaction.

Talking Points: “The Coast Guard recognizes we live in a global economy and that foreign-owned corporations own and operate businesses within the United States. Laws and international conventions currently in place -- such as the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code and the Maritime Transportation Security Act -- regulate the security measures with which vessel and facility operators must comply. The Coast Guard strictly enforces these federal laws and international conventions to ensure compliance and protect the security of our vital ports and waterways.”

 As the lead federal agency for maritime security, the Coast Guard routinely inspects and assesses the security of 3,000 regulated facilities in more than 360 U.S. ports at least annually in accordance with the Maritime Transportation and Security Act (MTSA) and the Ports and Waterways Security Act (PWSA).

 Every regulated U.S. port facility, regardless of owner/operator, is required to establish and implement a comprehensive Facility Security Plan (FSP) that outlines procedures for controlling access to the facility, verifying credentials of port workers, inspecting cargo for tampering, designating security responsibilities, training, and reporting of all breaches of security or suspicious activity, among other security measures. Working closely with local port authorities and law enforcement agencies, the Coast Guard regularly reviews, approves, assesses and inspects these plans and facilities to ensure compliance.

 In addition to the Coast Guard’s broad authorities for ensuring the security of U.S. port facilities and operations, the Coast Guard works closely with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to ensure foreign port facilities and ships comply with the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code in an effort to push out our borders and create a layered maritime security posture.

 Given the scale of this pending acquisition, the Coast Guard is ordering its Captains of the Port to re-visit and re-examine all existing P&O port facilities and operations to ensure DHS has the most up-to-date information, which includes an audit of the facility security plan. The Coast Guard will conduct a full on-site MTSA compliance exam at each port facility where P&O maintains a substantial interest, including stevedore services.

Guidance: Public Affairs media posture is passive – response to query only using the statement provided above. Due to national policy implications, inquiries beyond the scope of this Pelorus should be referred to DHS or CG Headquarters (G-IPA) for consideration. Supplemental PAG may be issued by G-IPA.

Coast Guard Vision Statement: “The world’s best Coast Guard … Ready today… Preparing for tomorrow.”

Issue date: 2/21/06 Review date: 6/21/06 Action Officer: CDR Brendan McPherson Phone: 202-267-0734

I stand by my previous post.

This question was asked by Mashrout in the comments:

As one issue, if a student somewhere publishes a cartoon perceived to be offensive to Moslems, is there any action that the UAE or DPW might be forced/feel obligated to take that would be of supreme detriment to our port system?

As a second, even if the physical space of control is small, does it introduce any important vulnerabilities? (As well as are there important vulnerabilities that should have been done away with 9/11, but perhaps this could be a starting point to remove other vulnerabilities).

This space is no friend to people of Wahabi thought and sympathy, and I make the distinction between militant adherents of that doctrine from the bulk of Muslim people - though there are obviously a significant number of exciteable muslims who can be whipped into a nice killing frenzy at a riot, as they are demonstrating around the world of late.

However, it strikes me that people who should know better are acting on this issue like suddenly, planeloads of Arab Wahabi jihadis are going to arrive and take over the ports.

Like any large acquisition, upper management will change, and profits from the operation will shift from wherever P&O deposits their money to wherever DPW deposits theirs.

It's possible, even probable, that DPW will funnel some of those profits to causes we would rather they not. Money is fungible that way. But that is a third-order effect subsumed by the global nature of DPW's operations anyway. But we fund things like, oh, Israel, that they perhaps would rather we didn't.

Are we positing a situation where DPW management will co-opt (or, more likely, dupe) its US citizen/non-muslim resident alien/muslim employees into taking actions deleterious to the US (and ultimately, their livelihood and possibly freedom)? If you approach this based on that premise, it doesn't matter *who* runs the ports, that possibility exists - and is no different from the situation extant today. The difference is you believe it would be a government-sponsored activity, vice say, an al-qaeda/Hamas etc infiltration/co-option. If so, pity the government of Dubai. They are targetable. And they've seen, close up, what we can do.

As I've said before - if your argument is that you don't feel the HLD and the Coast Guard are standing up to their responsibilities, argue your point from that perspective. And the kerfuffle at least puts the issue on the radar screen to broach the subject. If your argument is economic policy and concern about why no US company wants to bid the work, argue that point.

But if what you are really reacting to is a mental vision of the Cosairs of Umbar or the Barbary Pirates sailing up the Mississippi or shelling Fort McHenry in Boston Harbor, you need to think the issue through a little more - because *that* really, in this Armorer's opinion, is *not* the issue. Your issue is the HLD security one, and *that* is what you should be arguing. Why? Because if you *win* on this issue - you.will.not.have.addressed.your.real.issue.

Just sayin'.

Update: If ya don't like it coming from a nobody like me, try Jim Glassman.

Note: While Brownhound is *not* my source for this document, I see he had it up first - and being a Coastie and blogger might be a good place to keep an eye on regarding this.

Also: Because I know you want to know - a pelorus is the fixed compass card (the bottom of the compass, underneath the needle) on which bearings relative to a ship's heading are taken.

John | Permalink | Comments (5) | Global War on Terror (GWOT)
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