Wednesday, March 01, 2006

DP World Deal Creates Deep Disinformation

I am not above taking a few ideas from the "blogasphere" to heart, and using them in this space. My friend Ken Lyon's opinions posted on his forum are spot on...forgive me for just a few edits:

I've been in the US over the past couple of weeks and although it has had limited press coverage outside of the US, the proposed acquisition of the P & O Ports business by Dubai Ports World has created a storm... A HUGE STORM!

The US media are having a field day, along with Members of Congress, who are described in the FT thus... "When they gang together, Washington politicians can make almost anyone look sensible. They have outdone themselves in the P&O saga. Who would have thought that of all the parties involved in the sale of the UK shipping group, Dubai Ports World might emerge with some credit?"

Much of the nonsense being presented in the media on the subject of security concerns is just that, nonsense! The security concerns will change not one jot, irrespective of who is operating the terminals as security has been and will remain in the hands of the Coastguard, DHS and to a degree US Customs...

Some facts!

DPW are acquiring the management contracts for 'some' terminals in each of the ports! For the uninitiated, large ports nowadays are comprised of a series of terminals (aka 'berths') that are connected to a specific shipping line or trade. This is true across the globe... Indeed one of the larger competitors to P & O is Hutchinson Whampoa, owned by one of China's richest men Li Ka Shing (with very close ties to their government!)... This international ownership has been going on for years, in the US and elsewhere... Security has never been raised as an issue...(quick note, China "leans" toward Communism)

As far as I can check, in the past 15 years no US company has ever expressed a desire to get involved in the Port terminal management business anywhere in the world. Less so, have the capability to do it as they are mindful of the powerful longshore Unions that would be nervous at matching the efficiencies found in advanced port operations in Asia and Europe. Meanwhile, the Brits, the Chinese, the Danes and many others have been buying these operations around the world. Indeed, airport terminals have also been undergoing the same kinds of transformation, with UK and other companies building global businesses on the back of exploiting under utilized retail opportunities in these places... Why have these activities never been highlighted as 'A Serious Threat to National Security'??? (Maybe, cause they don't have political implications in the mid-term elections?)

DPW are controlled by the government of Dubai and could allow terrorists to gain knowledge of port operations... I suspect it's a bit easier to discover the operational procedures of any terminal by just having a friendly face get a job in one, read articles about how terminal A is more efficient than Terminal B in an effort to gain new customers (as they try and run them as a business to attract more shipping lines!) or, perhaps just pose as an owner of a small shipping line that wants to use the terminal and in the midst of the negotiation, request a briefing on their security procedures??? But what do I know? And anyway, security is not their job in the wider sense... Are we to understand that Customs and Border protection (who are responsible and independant) are not up to scratch here???

By the way, the Sheiks that control (own?) Dubai are quite keen on our way of life, they get to meet Her Majesty at the races given their shared passion for horse racing (a very big deal in the Gulf) and have been very strong in their support for the US (and not so gentle behind the scenes when dealing with questionable terrorist suspects)... They also employ either British, American or other western managers to run these companies, as they buy them for investment and profit, not murder and mayhem...

A good friend from the US reminded me that it's coming up to election time in the US and so any issue like this will be exploited for its political value, even if truth and fact are discarded along the way... However, this fuss creates the wrong image and justifies the fears many share about engaging seriously with US to defeat terrorism...

As we have discussed in this forum, co-operation and information sharing in advance of ships and cargo arriving on the doorstep is the key to addressing the challenges faced by governments... ill informed hysteria and alienation of innocent parties does nothing to move the the real debate forward...

Have I offended anyone with this??? (Ken probably doesn't really care if he did...he is being polite)

Just a thought; If I were someone up to no good, I probably wouldn't want to bring attention to myself by making an aquisition in a sensitive area using my own name or nationality... Someone might suspect something and want to examine my operations in more detail (which is precisely what is going on now with DP's self imposed review of the deal, along with their own cooling-off period).

Or have I missed the point? (No, you have not Ken...right on...lets see if our politicos catch on any time soon)


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