Hutchison Ports Boss Joins U.S. Ports Security Debate

HUTCHISON Ports boss John Meredith has warned Washington that its hawkish attitude to foreign terminal operators could jeopardise waterfront security rather than make US ports safer.

The US needs the co-operation of overseas port operators in its drive to tighten security, said Mr Meredith.

Instead, US politicians had sent out a message that that they don't trust foreign port companies when they objected to DP World's takeover of P'O's US assets.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Meredith warned that this could undermine security efforts at a time when the US needs the support of foreign port operators such as Hutchison and DP World in screening inbound cargo.

He noted that many overseas ports are way ahead of those in the US in terms of the technology being used to check containers for illegal contents such as nuclear materials.

'The US is relying on the goodwill of Dubai Ports and other port operators to do the overseas security checks for them,' said Mr Meredith, Hutchison's group managing director.

However, the furore over DP World does not help gain that co-operation, he told the newspaper.

He went on to say that global port operators were having problems explaining to US politicians how the supply chain works and convincing them the technology already exists to screen containers before they are loaded on to a ship. A pilot system is being trialled in Hong Kong whereby trucks drive through a scanner without stopping.

When US politicians discovered that Hutchison's Freeport Container Port in the Bahamas was being provided with a straddle carrier fitted with radiation detection equipment by the US government, there was yet another outcry in Washington about the dangers of handing over responsibility for security to foreigners.

That reaction 'was completely disproportionate', Mr Meredith said. 'Why not have another security check further down the chain?'

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