Dubai Port Operator Steps up Cooperation with U.S. Customs

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates_Dubai's state-owned port operator said it has stepped up cooperation with U.S. customs, announcing Tuesday that its terminal in the Dominican Republic had joined the United States' anti-terrorist Container Security Initiative.

The marine terminal at Port of Caucedo has become the 13th port owned by Dubai's DP World to allow U.S. Customs inspectors to search America-bound shipments before they sail out, DP World said in a statement.

Earlier this year, DP World's purchase of operations in six U.S. ports sparked an outcry in the U.S. Congress, where many members said they had concerns that an Arab-owned port operator could expose the United States to Middle Eastern terror groups. Many said Congress' reaction - and its March vote to block the sale - smacked of anti-Arab bias.

The company and U.S. officials say the pre-shipping inspections allow for faster delivery of goods to U.S. ports, since controlled containers arrive classified as domestic cargo.

"We are committed to working with the U.S. authorities to facilitate security at our terminals," Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, DP World's chairman, said in a statement.

Bowing to political pressure, DP World promised to sell by October the operations it acquired in New York, New Jersey, New Orleans, Baltimore, Miami and Philadelphia - plus lesser activities at 16 other U.S. ports. Analysts have said the company is on course to meet that deadline.

The imbroglio hurt U.S. relations with the Emirates, considered a staunch American ally.

Under the Container Security Initiative, U.S. inspectors use radiation detectors and other methods to search for high-risk containers among those headed for American ports. The procedure is under way in 44 ports worldwide, DP World said.

<<Associated Press WorldStream -- 07/13/06>>