- The Washington Times - Friday, June 10, 2011

I understand and fully share the concerns about illegal cargo raised in the June 2 Commentary column by Mark Wallace and Frances Townsend, “Virginia is for lovers of contraband.” Unfortunately, however, the column fosters a number of misconceptions about CMA CGM’s operations and commitment to international efforts with respect to Iran.

I can assure you that CMA CGM is dedicated to complying with all U.S., European Union and United Nations sanctions against Iran. We take this responsibility very seriously and have taken numerous steps to detect and prevent the transport of illegal cargo. CMA CGM’s customers rightfully demand such diligence, and the company’s effort to be on the forefront of regulatory compliance has contributed to our robust growth and customer confidence.

CMA CGM carries nearly 9 million containers around the world every year. Even with strict compliance procedures in place, those who seek to do harm to the international community will work to thwart the system. This is precisely what happened with the recent MV Victoria incident cited by Mr. Wallace and Ms. Townsend. In that case, as is standard practice, the containers were loaded by the shipper and delivered to CMA CGM dockside. Although the shipping documents declared the cargo to be lentils, the containers contained unlawful weapons stowed behind a false container wall. There was nothing on the face of the document to alert CMA CGM to the unlawful cargo; even a random container inspection would only have revealed the lentils placed in front of the hidden arms.

Although CMA CGM checks the names of all parties involved in a shipment against government databases, none of the parties involved was on such lists. Moreover, the containers at issue neither originated in nor were bound for Iran.

The point here is not to deflect blame but rather to demonstrate that carriers cannot stop weapons trade on their own. We are merely part of an international effort that requires cooperation from government authorities and all commercial parties to a transaction. In this case, such cooperation worked - the containers were intercepted and seized by Israeli authorities with full cooperation from CMA CGM.

FRANK J. BARAGONA

President, CMA CGM (America) LLC

Norfolk, Va.