- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 21, 2006

DUNDALK, Md. — On the docks in Dundalk, the idea of working for the United Arab Emirates is sitting uneasy with some Port of Baltimore longshoremen and stevedores after a federally approved business deal that would give the Middle Eastern nation control of port operations.

“I think it is wrong,” said Dan Hall, a longshoreman for 30 years, as he stood outside a Citgo gas station on Dundalk Avenue yesterday. “I don’t think it is safe to work with these foreign companies.”

“We don’t know what’s in these containers,” said Mr. Hall, 56, adding that he estimates only about 20 percent of the containers moving through the port are scanned. “I feel personally that [Arabs] are infiltrating the country the best means they can. What they want to do is [go] through the port.”

Work at the port will continue to be performed by unionized longshoremen under the deal in which state-owned Dubai Ports World of the United Arab Emirates purchased London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. for $6.8 billion.

P&O; provides stevedoring and terminal operating services at Baltimore’s Seagirt and Dundalk Marine terminals, the largest of the Maryland Port Administration’s seven terminals, and at five other U.S. seaports.

The company also hires the terminal work force and ensures cargo is delivered or shipped at the port. It employs about 65 workers at the Port of Baltimore who handle mostly containerized cargo.

The U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Customs and Border Protection provide security at the Port of Baltimore and other ports acquired by Dubai Ports World. Port operators “just make sure every ship and every truck is unloaded,” said Mike Bowden, president of International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1459.

While Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. toured the port yesterday, workers remained busy offloading and transporting cargo along the 45-mile waterfront.

A few miles away, outside a brick union building on Oldham Street, one longshoreman told reporters that union officials had directed members not to talk to the press about the deal.

James J. Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, told The Washington Times yesterday that the uproar over Arab involvement at the port facilities is nothing more than anti-Arab bias.

Mr. Zogby defended the United Arab Emirates as an ally of the United States and said that uninformed, pandering politicians were damaging U.S. attempts at diplomacy in the Middle East.

“If you take an election year and fear of national security ready to be exploited and Arabs, and put it together, you’ve got a pretty lethal brew that politicians are ready to stir up,” Mr. Zogby said.

Others who did not want to give their names said security concerns will remain the same at the port even under control of the Arab company.

“I don’t think it will affect me,” said a 61-year-old longshoreman in an orange jumpsuit, who stopped by the same Citgo station to buy a stack of lottery tickets yesterday evening. “Everybody coming through on the ships are foreigners already.

“They have to go through customs and all that. … It’s the same ship, just somebody different who owns it.”

As workers rolled out of the port at the end of their shift, one longshoreman, who also didn’t provide his name, summed up the situation: “Nothing is going to change for us, man.”

• Tom Ramstack and Jon Ward contributed to this report.

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