Dubai Port Deal Dies With Dishonor

Once again, this country's standing around the world will be undermined. The decision by Dubai Ports World to forgo running the port business it acquired when it took over Peninsular and Oriental's operations shows that politicians are holding a double standard when it comes to Arab companies.

The hue and cry was that we can't let "foreigners" run our ports, if for no other reason than "national security." Guess what, folks -- our ports are already run by so-called "foreigners." There are virtually no American companies in the business anymore, having all gone bankrupt as a result of U.S. regulatory policy fueled by patriotic sensationalism. Yet as the 18th-century writer Samuel Johnson once articulated, "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."

Just look at who was running the ports that DP World would have begun operating: P&O is a British-based company. The largest terminal operator in the United States is Denmark's A.P. Moeller-Maersk. Indeed, there's not an American company in the world's Top 10 terminal operators. Instead, they hail from such far-flung corners of the globe as Denmark, Switzerland, Taiwan, China, Germany, France, and Japan. DP World, the world's seventh-largest operator, runs 22 marine terminals in 15 countries without any complaints.

The biggest U.S. container company, coming in at No. 31 in terms of shipping capacity, is Matson Navigation with just 18 ships. No. 35 is Horizon Lines with 16 ships. In comparison, Maersk has 585 ships. U.S.-based SSA Marine is the world's ninth-largest terminal operator, and it stands to make out on the opposition to DP World, which has said it will now try to find an American firm to run the operations.

The fact is, there are few American companies running ports here in the U.S. and even fewer shipping lines that are U.S.-based. Those dreaded "foreigners" have been handling operations for us for years now. The only difference is that now it was the possibility of an Arab country operating here.

There has been nothing to suggest that DP World was not qualified to run the six ports it acquired, and there wasn't any problem when it acquired CSX World Terminals from CSX (NYSE: CSX  ) in 2005. It just happened to run afoul of the politicians who cater to and nurture the basest fears of Americans.

Fool contributor Rich Duprey does not own any of the stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings here. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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