GOP Governors Oppose Dubai Firm Running U.S. Ports

Two moderate Republican governors, New York’s George Pataki and Maryland’s Bob Ehrlich, are threatening to revoke the leases to run ports in their states now that the company that operates them has been sold by their former British owners to a firm from Dubai.

Two Republican governors are threatening legal action to block an Arab company from taking over operations in major U.S. ports and some GOP lawmakers say the deal should be closely examined. In the uneasy climate after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Bush administration decision to allow the transaction is threatening to develop a major political headache for the White House.

New York Gov. George Pataki and Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich on Monday voiced doubts about the acquisition of a British company that has been running six U.S. ports by Dubai Ports World, a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates. The British company, Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., runs major commercial operations at ports in Baltimore, Miami, New Jersey, New Orleans, New York and Philadelphia.

Both governors indicated they may try to cancel lease arrangements at ports in their states because of the DP World takeover. “Ensuring the security of New York’s port operations is paramount and I am very concerned with the purchase of Peninsular & Oriental Steam by Dubai Ports World,” Pataki said in a news release. “I have directed the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to explore all legal options that may be available to them.” Ehrlich, concerned about security at the Port of Baltimore, said Monday he was “very troubled” that Maryland officials got no advance notice before the Bush administration approved the Arab company’s takeover of the operations at the six ports. “We needed to know before this was a done deal, given the state of where we are concerning security,” Ehrlich told reporters in the State House rotunda in Annapolis.


Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey said Monday that he and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., will introduce legislation prohibiting the sale of port operations to foreign governments.


The Bush administration got support Monday from former President Carter, a Democrat and frequent critic of the administration. “My presumption is, and my belief is, that the president and his secretary of state and the Defense Department and others have adequately cleared the Dubai government organization to manage these ports,” Carter told CNN. “I don’t think there’s any particular threat to our security.”

That the Bush administration is allied with Jimmy Carter against Hillary Clinton and much of the conservative punditocracy is remarkable odd, indeed.

It may well be that there are sufficient checks in place that having a foreign owned country, even one from the part of the world from which our enemies hail, is not a problematic. Still, Lindsey Graham is right: This is quite tone deaf on the part of the administration.

Michelle Malkin has had a number of posts on this subject over the last couple of days.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Fersboo says:

    Absolutly no forgein control of any american ports

    Posted by: thunderbird

    Then we are in trouble already TBird. Those ports are already under ‘control’ of a foreign company, if by control you mean that they handle port operations. You see, those ports are currently being operated by a British company and the UAE company is planning on buying the British one, or at least the division that runs port operations. Hopefully you don’t really think that the risks involved with the UAE company don’t already exist.

  2. LJD says:

    It is truly a political game being played here. As Fersboo points out, the ports are ALREADY turned over to foreigners, the British. Now, we object just because it is an arab company? What, no muslims or extremists in Great Britain?

    Unfortunately, we have ALREADY shot ourselves in the foot here. It will be a big insult and point of tension to now turn away from the UAE, where we have troops and support in the GWOT.

    Should there be foreign control of our ports? No.
    Have we ALREADY screwed this up? Yes.
    Is there a price to be paid for our past mistakes? Yes.

  3. G A PHILLIPS says:

    I think that Walmart should make a bid for the ports, or better yet haliburton.

  4. fizzix says:

    As per The Astute Blogger, turn over control of operations to the Danes! They have a large cargo handling company.

  5. DC Loser says:

    For once LJD and I are in agreement. We don’t need to piss off the UAE, who are our allies in the GWOT at the moment, and we need all the friends in the Arab world we can get. All the oppsition to this sale is just race baiting and political grandstanding by politicians.

  6. mary says:

    Actually, few people would care if the Arabs are upset with us…Because the British had control of our ports does not excuse the fact that NO foreign countries should have ownership of our ports in the future…AND, Hillary will fight to have this corrected…

  7. anjin-san says:

    Yes, we should trust the UAE. After all Rumsfeld says they are good guys and they are pals of the Bush admin. Of course Rumsfled used to say pretty much the same thing about Saddam…

  8. Anderson says:

    I loved Atrios’s comment to the effect that the President’s Article II authority OBVIOUSLY empowers him to assign our port security to a UAE-owned company, without even needing Congressional approval ….

  9. James Joyner says:

    Atrios was being ironic, no doubt, but he’s almost certainly right. Or, more precisely, Congress delegates such things to the Executive branch routinely. It would be inconceivable to require an Act of Congress every time ownership of a company doing contracting work for the government–in this case, apparently under state auspices–changed.

  10. Herb says:

    This entire mess is unbelievable,

    If Jimmy Carter is in favor of this deal, that should send a loud and clear message to the White House, that it is not s good deal for our country.