Dubai Port Update

DUBAI PORT UPDATE….The Dubai port deal continues to be murky. A couple of recent notes:

  • Via Mark Kleiman, the blog Transparent Grid notes that port operators do have responsibility for certain aspects of port security.

    I’m not sure how meaningful this is, but there’s obviously some truth to it. The Coast Guard and U.S. Customs may have primary responsibility for security, but port operators have to cooperate with these agencies and implement security practices under their direction. I don’t think there’s much question that having somebody working on the inside of a port operator would hypothetically make it easier to circumvent normal security procedures.

  • Via Josh Marshall, it turns out that the Coast Guard had some initial qualms about the Dubai deal, though they now say that “other U.S. intelligence agencies were able to provide answers to the questions it raised.” Maybe so, but it would be nice to know what those qualms were.

The bulk of the evidence still suggests to me that DP World would be a reasonable and prudent choice to operate terminals at U.S. ports ? partly because DPW seems to have a pretty good reputation and partly because it’s not clear what actual damage they could do even if they were infiltrated by a full-blown al-Qaeda operative. It’s easy for people like us to guess endlessly about hypothetical risks, but I haven’t yet heard from anyone with real experience in port operations about any specific, concrete risks that would result from the DPW takeover. If there were any serious ways in which DPW might compromise security at the terminals they operate, you’d think we would have heard about it by now.

Still, congressional hearings are good. Hopefully we’ll all learn more about this issue over the next few weeks.