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The Gulftainer deal: Ports of peril?

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Friday, Aug. 1, 2014, 8:57 p.m.

A key congressman's call to review the national security implications of a Middle Eastern company's deal to operate a U.S. cargo port should be heeded.

Based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a U.S. ally nevertheless identified as a funding source for the 9/11 terrorist attacks, privately owned Gulftainer has a 35-year contract to run Florida's Port Canaveral, near a busy cruise port and a Navy nuclear-submarine facility. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who chairs a House subcommittee on maritime transportation, wants “a full national security review” of the deal by the interagency Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, The Washington Times reports.

Congressional opposition led UAE-based Dubai Ports World to abandon U.S. port plans in 2007. Gulftainer concerns mirror those raised by Hutchison Whampoa — closely tied to China's military — running Suez and Panama canal port facilities and upgrading a Mexican port for Wal-Mart. Security experts' biggest concern — who screens shipping containers — is amplified because a 2007 law requiring all U.S.-bound containers be screened before loading overseas hasn't been enforced due to compliance-deadline extensions.

With one container enough to carry a terrorist weapon of mass destruction, a full review of the Gulftainer deal should be a given.

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