Sunday, March 05, 2006

Commerce: Globalization: Ports security hysterics evoked by Dubai company deal, debate to the good

Megablogger, blog-theorist, and radio-broadcaster, Hugh Hewitt, has been discussing the Dubai Ports World deal made with USA govt agency, Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS) related to the US Treasury, to run 6 American ports. Of course, it takes some heavy duty serious analysis to find out what "run" means in the case of ports of commerce (as against military ports). "Run" here does not mean absolute control; it means responsbility not freedom. And besides, now all ports are under Homeland Security and military authority of the US Coast Guard, no mean outfit!

World map tracking all ships on the hi-seas

Nevertheless, there's a "security lobby" out there, thirsty for a definite biggo issue. With the Ports contract, they've got one.

A year and some time ago, Mick Dinsmore, CEO of the Port of Seattle (located in the vicinity of huge US Navy facilities with their own ports, docks, drydocks, ammo dumps, ships coming, ships going, sailors, Marines who police sailors on board navy ships, nite clubs where sailors and Marines and hangers-on coagulate, keeping Military Police active as the boys drink away their pay and dance with transvestites and real women. At: Bremerton, Washington state, these ships are homeported:

USS CAMDEN fast combat support ship 2 FPO AP 96698-3013
USS COLUMBUS nuclear-powered attack submarine 762 FPO AP 96662-2418
USS HOUSTON nuclear-powered attack submarine 713 FPO AP 96667-2393
USS JOHN C STENNIS nuclear-powered aircraft carrier 74 FPO AP 96615-2874

So, including the Port of Seattle's Coast Guard facilities, the mentioned CEO's bailiwick is well protected. But that latter contention has been respectably questioned.

In a bipartisan letter to Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thomas Collins, Sens. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., this week wrote, "It is extremely difficult to maintain the security of our borders and ports with the minuscule resources provided by the Coast Guard to conduct its port security mission."

In a nationwide review, under the Maritime Security Act, the Coast Guard identified $7.4 billion in port security upgrades needed in the next decade.
Well, here's Dinsmore's two-yr-old thumbnail on the world shipping industry and the US interface with it
Worldwide, there are 50,000 ships, carrying 9 million containers, calling at 3,000 ports.

In the US we have 361 river ports and seaports. Every year we get 50,000 visits from 8,100 foreign ships. Every day 21,000 containers enter the US. We can verify the contents of only about 4 percent to 6 percent of those containers. And it would require only one rogue container to bring commerce to its knees.

Imagine what would happen if a biological, chemical, or some other kind of weapon arrived in one of our harbors. Every American port would be affected as authorities worked to determine the extent and the source of the threat. Global trade could practically be shut down. And we don't have the systems in place to get our seaports up and running again. Our airports were operating a few days after Sept. 11, 2001. Reopening seaports would take substantially longer.
But let's look again at the Naval Base in nearby Bremerton and surrounding harbors, bays, inlets, channels, etc. of Puget Sound of which Seattle is the largest urban center. The info here comes from website:
Naval Station Bremerton
Bremerton WA
47°33'00"N 122°38'30"W

The Bremerton store front services both the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and the Naval Station Bremerton. The Shipyard provides services of the Dockmaster who will also serve as the Store Front Manager, the Pier Master who coordinates all movements on the waterfront, and the Homeported Ships Zone Manager who fully supports the needs of the homeported ships.

The Bremerton Naval Inactive Ships Maintenance Facility is located adjacent to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. This storage and processing center for "Mothballed" ships is involved in foreign military and salvage sales.

As of April 1996, the shipyard was Home Port to seven US Navy ships. The home ported ships include one nuclear-powered aircraft carriers (CVN), three fast combat support ships (AOE) and two nuclear-powered cruisers (CGN). In July 1999 the Navy completed a Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) designed to determine the appropriate homeports for three Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers in the Pacific Fleet. The Final EIS preferred alternative supports developing facilities to homeport two Nimitz-class carriers at Naval Air Station North Island, CA. It also maintains Naval Station Everett, Wash. as a homeport for one Nimitz-class carrier. The possibility of relocating that ship's homeport to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Wash., will be re-evaluated after USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) completes a six-month scheduled maintenance period there in October 1999.

Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (PSNS), Bremerton is located on the north side of Sinclair Inlet. Sinclair Inlet is reached from Puget Sound by passing through Rich Passage and the waters of Port Orchard. PSNS Bremerton is a large facility. It has nine piers with a total of 12,310 ft (3,752 m) of deep water mooring space. Individual berths range from 700 ft (213 m) to 1,400 ft (417 m) with alongside depths ranging from 30 to 44 ft (9.1 to 13.4 m) (Figure 14). Pier heights are 17 ft above zero tide level. All piers are oriented north-south. Due to the prevailing southwesterly winds, the preferred berths are on the west side of the piers. The shipyard has six dry docks, one of which is 1,152 ft (351 m) long, the largest in the US Navy.

Four mooring buoys are available in Sinclair Inlet: Buoy L-1 is used for barges only. Buoy A-11 is a class D mooring and is good for 85 kt winds with an AS (Submarine Tender) moored to it. Buoy A-12 is a class B mooring and is good for 85 kt winds with a CVA class aircraft carrier moored to it. Buoy A-13 is a class C mooring and is good for 85 kt winds with an AD (Destroyer Tender), AO (Fleet Oiler) or similarly sized vessel moored to it. Because of numerous underwater cables, there are no anchorages near the shipyard. The nearest designated anchorage is located northwest of Blake Island in Puget Sound. Depths in the anchorage range from 90 to 390 ft. Holding is rated as good on a mud bottom. Harbor authorities at Bremerton state that the anchorage is exposed to north and south winds, but can be used by a CVN during storm force (³47 kt) winds. PSNS Bremerton does not have a designated Fleet Landing for ships using the anchorage.
Wherever US Navy facilities are located and where US Naval, Marine, and Coast Guard personnel are present in significant numbers, Naval Intelligence is operative as well. Additionally, there is the factor of the labor-structure in commercial ports. The Port of Seattle, for instance, has union contracts with the Machinists, IBEW Electricians, Longshoremen (and Wharehousers), Operating Engineers, Port Construction Workers, Port Firefighters, Teamsters (which have organized under collective agreements for Ground Transport, Police Captains and Lieutenants, Police / ID Access officers, Police Non-sworn supervisors, Police Officers, Police Sargeants, Police Specialists, and would-you-believe-it? Truck Drivers). Perhaps it would be best to break up the common union affiliation of the various Police categories and the truck drivers, which sounds terribly cozy given the commodities being handled and thefts investigated within the same union, if not same bargaining unit.There may indeed be matters to be improved not only with Dubai Ports World, but with Coast Guard, Navy, Intelligence, labor union, and business clients using any American international port. But the notion that the contract with an expert corporation should not go thru because it is headquartered or originated in an Arab country is specious. Conservative commentator Marie Jon has said well what capriciousness marks rightwing mediamouths wringing anti-Arab reaction out of their audiences, while Israel's largest internatnional cargo firm has endorsed Dubai Ports World. Inclosing, I simple note that I used Seattle as my example because it so well brawt the older commentators on Dinsmore, Coast Guard, Navy, and Labor elements into suggestive juxtaposition. The ports cities where Dubai Ports World may inherit the contracticaul relations it inherited when it bawt the previous British contractor, are the port cities of New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia. Philadewlphia had its huge aircraft-carrier base dismantled decades ago, so the parallel with Seattle doesn't hold as clearly. And the Port of New Orleans is already functioning and will be up to pre-Katrina capacity soon. It should be extensively redeveloped, bigger and more efficient than ever. But there's no reason why much the City of New Orleans should be rebuilt because it's such a hi-risk. The Port should be expanded, and the music zone should be advanced, but most of the city, including its hotels, should be relocated to land that won't be flooded as happened with Katrina. - Politicarp

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