The Packaging Of A Controversy 2.27.2006

Something about the UAE port controversy has bothered me for a while. What has bothered me is essentially this: what the hell is actually being transfered from British to UAE control? So far we've been told repeatedly that a United Arab Emirates company will be taking control of six ports--and by "port" most of us think "Port Of Los Angeles"--the entire multi-acre complex of shipping terminals, unloading equipment, transportation infrastructure, etc., etc., etc. (To give an idea of the scale we're talking here, the Port of Los Angeles handles 162.1 million metric tons of cargo a year worth an estimated $148.5 billion. The Port covers 4200 acres of land, and 43 miles of waterfront. Translation: Fucking HUGE.)

But is that what the United Arab Emirates-based DP World corporation will actually be taking control of--six entire sea ports?

Turns out, the answer is no:

Sound And Fury
Much criticism of the "deal"--there actually isn't a deal, a company headquartered in the United Arab Emirates bought a British company that had contracts to administer facilities at six ports--consists of general criticisms of the UAE, as though companies headquartered in that country can only do business in America if the Emirates' record on terror-related issues is spotless. That strikes me as a complete non sequitur. More confirmed terrorists have come from Great Britain than the Emirates, but no one raised any objection to British control over port terminals.

The key phrase here, regardless where you land on this issue, is port terminals, not port. When this controversy was being conveyed to the public, we think "port"--a'la the definition given above. But a port terminal is not a port: from the Port of Los Angeles' glossary, a port terminal is "An assigned area where containers are prepared for loading into a vessel, train or truck, or are stored immediately after discharge from a vessel, train or truck." Which, in the case of the DP World deal, they won't be taking charge of six ports, they're taking charge of twenty-one port terminals scattered within six ports--assigned areas where they can load and unload cargo from ships.


As the essay in Power Line points out:
And no one seems to care that the National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia already controls terminals at nine American ports. Or that China operates both ends of the Panama Canal.

No-one cares because control of the various ports (as opposed to port terminals) generally reside with the city in which the ports are operated, or by private government-regulated corporations that are entirely under the management of the city or state where they operate. In the case of the Port of Los Angeles:
How is the Port of Los Angeles structure?

The Port is an independent, self-supporting department of the City of Los Angeles, California. The Port is under the control of a five-member Board of Harbor Commissioners appointed by the Mayor and approved by the City Council and is administered by an executive director.

Now I don't want to say that the American Public has been lied to by the constant repetition by the Major Media that the Dubai-based DP World was going to take control of six ports (as opposed to port terminals), but I believe this blatant "misconception" certainly is skewing things drastically.

posted by William Woody at 5:26 PM

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A moderate conservative living in the left coast, surrounded by the sureal, wonders if there is a sane life living amongst those who have lost touch with reality.

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