Operation of shipping terminals by foreign governments not new
LONG BEACH, CA. -- Most shipping terminal operators are foreign companies and most of those companies are owned by foreign governments.
Recent news of the take-over of six major United States ports by the government of Dubai is not a shock to some because Red China has been running the largest port in the U.S since 1998.
Terminals in Oakland, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Alaska are managed by APL (www.apl.com), which is owned by Singapore-based Neptune Orient Lines, a global transportation and logistics company, which is in turn owned by the Singapore government.
Communist Red China China owns Cosco Container Lines, a division of China Cosco (www.cosco.com.cn), which operates a terminal at the Port of Long Beach. Back in 1998 there was a similar outcry from a few members of Congress, but even after Congress passed a bill against it the company managed to take over a terminal anyway.
Cosco ships are the biggest containerized carriers in the Pacific. The company was and is the single largest shipping company to use the Port of Long Beach.
The Red Chinese in 1998 wanted to build a terminal at the former Long Beach Naval Station. A public outcry that began with reports filed by this reporter and others resulted in a bill passed by congress that stopped the plans -- or so it was thought.
Cosco was able to take over a terminal at the port that was vacated by another tenant, and so Red China began operation of the busy terminal in spite of the national security concerns expressed by Congress, and in spite of the bill that was passed.
That terminal is operated by Cosco as the majority partner in a joint venture with Stevedoring Services of America (www.ssamarine.com), a U.S. company.
Many who argue there is no security risk, point out that the companies managing the terminals may be foreign-government-owned, but they employ Americans. They hire local longshoremen to load and unload the ships through the local unions, and most of the employees at the terminal are from the U.S.
Now the government of Dubai through it's company Dubai Ports World, wants to take over Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co. of London. Dubai is one of seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates. The deal will cost $6.8 billion.
The reason this has sent up a red flag is that the London company operates shipping terminals in New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami, and Philadelphia as well as a passenger-ship terminal in New York City.
U.S. ports are owned by local governments that lease space to terminal operators, and many of those are owned by shipping companies, which are in turn owned by foreign governments. Most ports have more than one terminal, and therefore more than one terminal operator.
Security concerns about shipping extend beyond the operators of the terminals.
Not only are U.S. shipping ports operated by non-U.S. interests, the vast majority of ships flying the U.S. flag are actually not owned by U.S. companies at all. Almost all U.S. flag carriers have been bought out by non-U.S. companies, and most of those companies are owned by foreign governments.
Regardless of ownership of the ships and management of the terminals, many are asking questions about U.S. security procedures because of reports that at least 95 percent of all containers entering U.S. ports are never opened and inspected.
The Marine Transportation Security Act provides the regulations for security in U.S. ports, and those regulations apply regardless of who manages the terminals. However, the application of those regulations and the enforcement of them is beyond the capability of the agencies involved because those agencies do not receive enough funds to carry out their responsibilities.
The U.S. Coast Guard is responsible for security in the waters surrounding the U.S. and other U.S. interests around the world. The U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection is supposed to screen what comes into the country, however U.S. Customs inspectors are limited by manpower and resources, so very few containers are ever inspected.
There is no agency that provides security for the actual terminals. Physical protection of each terminal is up to the specific port authority and the companies managing those terminals.
The question of national security extends far beyond what company operates shipping terminals. Congressmen are talking about investigations, but they have not said if they will investigate all of the border problems and national security issues, including the constant flow of illegal aliens.
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