FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 19, 2006
Joined By Outraged 9-11 Families, Schumer Calls On President To Personally Intervene To Override Secret Committee’s Deal To Give United Arab Emirates Control Of Our Ports
President Being Asked for First Time to Step in and Overrule Cagey Committee With Only 2 Weeks Before Control of Port of NY/NJ is turned over to Dubai Company
Schumer: CFIUS Has Proven Itself Unreliable, in Matters of National Security the Buck Must Stop at the President
Schumer Also Asks for New, Complete 90-Day Investigation Into All Foreign Government Contracts at our Ports
In two weeks control of the Port of New York and New Jersey will be handed over to Dubai Ports World, a Dubai Company that is owned and operated by the United Arab Emirates. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States approved the $6.8 billion in the middle of January. This approval would allow the UAE company to take control of most operations at six ports on the East Coast, including: New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia. Except for cargo screening functions performed by the Department of Homeland Security, the port operator is responsible for securing cargo coming in and out of the port, the port facility itself, and the hiring of security personnel. In light of these critical functions being transferred from a private company based in Britain to a United Arab Emirates government-owned company based in Dubai, Schumer, standing with 9-11 families called for the President to override approval for the deal and begin a special 90 day investigation into all US port contracts that involve foreign governments.
"This is a deal that was approved in the dark of night, and needs to see the light of day," Schumer said. "CFIUS has proven itself unreliable and in matters of national security, the buck stops at the President who should step in now to protect our ports."
The Port of New York and New Jersey was partially controlled by a London-based company, Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., the world's 4th largest port operator with operations in over 85 ports in 19 countries, including P&O subsidiary P&O Ports North America, which has operations in over 20 U.S. ports from Portland, Maine to Corpus Christi, Texas as well as Vancouver, Canada on the West Coast. But last week, the government of Dubai, United Arab Emirates won a bidding war to buy the venerable British firm. DP World's bid to buy the company was quietly cleared by a government panel without public scrutiny. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) cleared the deal, without a public report or evaluation.
On Monday, Schumer sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff asking him to conduct a thorough evaluation of the security ramifications of the take over and present his to report to Congress within one month. On Thursday Schumer stood with a Bipartisan group of lawmakers and called for the Treasury Department to carefully review the new arrangement and scrutinize all security issues before control is turned over completely.
Without any response from either department, today Schumer called on the President to override the approval granted by CFIUS and commence a Special Investigation into the matter. Specifically Schumer called for a 90-day investigation into all contracts with foreign governments at our ports.
"In a post 9-11 world we can never be too careful," Schumer said.
Ports have long been considered the most vulnerable targets for a terrorist attack and experts agree that shipping containers are the best way to smuggle a Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD) in to the United States. Only 5 percent of containers entering our ports are actually inspected, with the rest in under the control of the port operator. Nuclear, Chemical, or Biological materials could easily be delivered directly to a U.S. port, many of which are located within or adjacent to major population centers (NY-NJ, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Norfolk, Miami, New Orleans, Houston).
The Port of New York and New Jersey has seen a significant boost in sea cargo over the last few years with a substantial rise in Asian trade helping to boost growth by more than 10 percent during the first six months of 2005. Overall, the port offloaded 1,654,483 cargo containers during the first six month of 2005.