NEW YORK – The U.S. missed an opportunity to make its shores safer when it drove away a Dubai-based company poised to operate cargo terminals at several American seaports, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Thursday.
In a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, Chertoff said the international shipping firm DP World could have helped implement stronger security at many ports where the U.S. now has limited influence.
“We could (have) actually built in some additional assurances, which would have given us more security in the wake of the deal than we had before the deal,” Chertoff said.
“The oddity of this, the irony of this, is that had the deal gone forward, we would have had greater ability to impose a security regime worldwide on the company than we have now.”
DP World, the world’s third-largest ports company, got a role in loading and unloading cargo from ships in at least 20 U.S. ports when it purchased the British company Peninsular & Oriental.
The Bush administration defended the deal, but under pressure from Congress, the company said this month that it will sell its U.S. businesses to an American buyer.
The decision followed a month of attacks by critics who said they did not trust a government-owned company from the Arabian Peninsula to be given a sensitive role handling cargo at U.S. ports. DP World is owned by the Emirate of Dubai, which is part of the United Arab Emirates.
Chertoff, however, said DP World has a good track record with U.S. authorities and has long been trusted to help move U.S. military materiel and personnel.