The security record of DP World, the state-owned company that runs the port at Jebel Ali, became a political issue in the past month after U.S. legislators started campaigning against its takeover of contracts to run five U.S. container terminals and a range of other cargo and passenger-handling activities as part of its wider $6.8 billion takeover of P&O, the British container ports and ferries operator. DP World was reported to have offered to transfer operation of the ports to a U.S. entity after politicians from both main U.S. parties claimed that it was unfit to take them over because it is owned by the government of Dubai. The United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is part, has been an unreliable partner in combating terrorism, politicians claimed. Dubai customs officials and managers at DP World have replied that their record in Dubai and their cooperation with the CSI show they are just as interested in securing the world’s container supply system as the U.S. government.
According to the Financial Times, DP World says the company was enforcing stringent safety rules even before the September 11 attacks. Dubai has subsequently become the first port in the Middle East to join the CSI. The CSI’s approach is to identify the containers most likely to present a problem and to inspect them before they are loaded on to ships. To critics of the P&O takeover, however, the very basis of CSI and other efforts to tighten container security is mistaken. Critics argue that every one of the roughly 50 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of containers that enters the US annually should be stopped and inspected. Such a process would be far more sensitive to interference by a container terminal operator – heightening the critics’ concerns about leaving the job in the hands of foreign companies.
Dubai is a key port in the initiative because millions of containers move annually between ships at the port on their way to and from the Gulf. Customs service inspects every container from the highest-risk countries and uses blacklists of problematic companies circulated among worldwide customs services and systems designed to spot departures from normal patterns. Dubai customs regularly intercepts drugs, counterfeit money, counterfeit goods and guns moving through its ports. The Financial Times reported
that Dubai once
seized pipes that it had been told could have had a nuclear application.
(Source: Financial Times)