Volume 14, Issue 9 ~ March 2 - March 8, 2006


Shipping New Worries up Chesapeake Bay

We need only look at our Chesapeake to understand why we should pay attention to decisions about ports.

At any given moment, huge potential problems like oil spills are traveling up the Bay. Now Dubai Ports World, a company headquartered in the United Arab Emirates, wants to run the port of Baltimore.

With so much to worry about these days, we’ve got to prioritize. Worry about everything, and we’ll soon be too scared to publish a newspaper. The good news — or is it the bad? — is that on shipping issues, we’ve got worse worries than the prospect of an Arab country taking over the port of Baltimore port along with a half-dozen others around the country.

Like it or not, much of the United States already has been sold to the highest bidder. Together, China and Japan own roughly $900 billion of U.S. Treasury Bonds, according to Bloomberg’s. Our trade deficit with China alone could reach $250 billion this year. China is a communist nation, if that still means anything.

In short, in this era of globalization it’s hard to know who owns what. It’s just as hard to know when to be concerned.

Yet that hasn’t stopped politicians from selectively raging over the deal that would install the Dubai-owned company at the Baltimore docks.

But don’t be taken in by this tempest in a teapot.

Sen. E. J. Pipkin, an Eastern Shore Republican, has got it right about the controversy over the Dubai company. “Nobody is talking about the elephant in the room … the abysmal lack of funds to pay for port security projects,” he said.

Pipkin, who has a reputation for straight talk, noted that the Maryland Port Administration said last year that it will fall $5 million short of the money it needs to police dangerous cargoes and to provide perimeter security at the Baltimore port.

Those are threats we don’t know about. When it comes to shipping, we should head our worry list with threats we know already exist, followed by threats looming on the horizon.

In the latter category falls the proposal by a Virginia company to build a $400 million liquid natural gas terminal on the site of the former Sparrows Point shipyard.

Already the reopened Cove Point Liquefied Natural Gas plant in Calvert County has made the southern Bay a supertanker highway. Should we extend the supertanker highway north to Anne Arundel and Baltimore?

LNG plants are magnets for terrorists. The authoritative and bipartisan Congressional Research Service concluded that if we must have these facilities, they should be situated in remote areas.

Rather than worrying about a company’s corporate papers, we’re better off spending what we need for security and saying no to creating more targets for terror.

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