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THE NEW YORK TIMES: Connecticut: Who Is Minding the State's Ports?

Published: March 5, 2006
WHILE the nation wrestles with the decision of whether to allow Dubai Ports World to operate in six American ports, and the security concerns that raises, there has not been much hand-wringing in Connecticut over the two companies with foreign links that help run the ports here.
There are deepwater ports in Bridgeport, New Haven and New London, and a Canadian company runs much of those operations. The other firm, Motiva Enterprises, is partly owned by a subsidiary of the national oil company of Saudi Arabia. Motiva owns and operates a portion of the ports of New Haven and Bridgeport.
And, in an odd twist, Motiva also owns some of the storage tanks at New Haven's port that hold part of the Northeast Heating Oil Reserve, a component of the country's Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which the federal government taps in times of emergency.
Motiva is a joint venture of the Shell Oil Company and Saudi Refining, a subsidiary of the Aramco Services Company, which itself is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Saudi Arabian Oil Company, a government-owned company also known as Saudi Aramco. Houston-based Motiva brings petroleum products, including gasoline and aviation fuel, into Connecticut.
Motiva and the Canadian company, Logistec of Montreal, own part of the state's ports because unlike most ports in the United States that tend to be owned by a government or a quasi-governmental agency, the ports of Bridgeport and New Haven are decentralized. Those ports mostly handle petroleum products, and the companies that operate there generally own their terminals, storage facilities and the land they are on without government involvement. The companies are also responsible for security at their sites.
The port of New London is run a bit differently because it is owned by the state.
Logistec has been operating in Connecticut for 10 years and Motiva for eight years. The Coast Guard, which is ultimately in charge of security at all of the state's ports, said it was not concerned about either company. The Coast Guard said Motiva has caused no problems.
“They have to comply with the same requirements, and we do the same oversight at those facilities regardless of ownership,” said Lt. Cmdr. Alan Blume, chief of the Coast Guard Prevention Department, Sector Long Island Sound.
Neither Mayor John M. Fabrizi of Bridgeport nor Mayor John DeStefano Jr. of New Haven said he was concerned about Motiva. Congresswoman Rose DeLauro, a Democrat whose district includes New Haven and who has criticized the Dubai Ports World deal, also said she was not worried.
“Motiva is headquartered in the U.S. and its c.e.o. is an American citizen,” she said. “When you contrast that to D. P. World, which is headquartered in Dubai and whose principal security officer is not an American, it's a different breed of cat.
“I am not too worried about Motiva's ability to be a good partner in port security.”
Shawn Frederick, a spokesman for Motiva, wrote in an e-mail message that the ownership of the company has not stirred up problems. He also wrote that the officer who heads security is an American.
“In our experience, Saudi Aramco's ownership in Motiva has never been the subject of questions or concerns in the past,” he wrote.
But Motiva's affiliation to the Saudis was startling news to some officials, including Congressman Christopher Shays, a Republican who represents Bridgeport and lives there.
“It is interesting in my own city that I live in, I wasn't aware that this Shell company was owned in part by Saudi Arabia,” he said. “I think we need an assessment of every port in the country of who owns and who runs it, how long they've run it, if it's foreign owned and if it's run by an Islamist country.”
It's apparent, Mr. Shays added, “We do not have a real handle on this issue.”
Neither of Connecticut's senators was aware of Motiva's ownership, and both called for further scrutiny of Connecticut ports.
“If there's any silver lining to the proposed Dubai deal, it's that finally a bright light is being directed toward an area of our national security that's been neglected for far too long,” Senator Christopher Dodd said in a statement when asked about Motiva.
Senator Joseph Lieberman, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said officials may need to look at the security of the New Haven and Bridgeport ports. “I've asked my staff to look into the approval process that was conducted before these sales took place,” he said, referring to the deals that brought the companies to Connecticut.
David Shuda, president of Coastline Terminals of Connecticut, which owns and leases terminals and is owned by the International Longshoremen's Association Local 1398 in New Haven, said he was surprised to learn of Motiva's link to the Saudis.
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“I think there needs to be a greater level of scrutiny of an operation like that than one that's American,” he said.
By way of contrast, Logistec's operations, which include Coastline's terminals, raised virtually no concern.
“I don't draw a parallel between the two,” Mr. Shuda said.
In New London, the two piers that make up the Admiral Harold E. Shear State Pier are owned by the state, under the responsibility of the State Department of Transportation. Its principal lumber- and copper-import operation is run by Logistec, which pays the state much as a tenant would pay a landlord to lease property. The Thames River Seafood Cooperative is the state's other tenant.
The situation in New Haven and Bridgeport is more complex.
The two main commercial terminals at Bridgeport are owned by Coastline and Motiva, an operation that brings in petroleum products on about 250 ships and barges a year.
Coastline's terminal is run by Logistec and it hires Coastline's union members to do the work.
The Coastline terminal in Bridgeport handles only dry goods, including produce from Central America, which accounts for the only container-shipped items that arrive anywhere in Connecticut. The terminal handles no more than 50 containers a week.
With more than a half-dozen owners, New Haven's port is even more complex. Magellan Midstream Partners, a Tulsa-based company, has 3 docks and 54 storage tanks that hold 3.9 million barrels of petroleum products in New Haven.
Motiva has 1.7 million barrels of storage, its second-largest operation in the United States. The locally based company New Haven Terminal, which at one time owned most of the ports of New Haven and Bridgeport and operated New London for the state, operates a terminal with 2.5 million barrels of storage. It leases out its nonpetroleum terminal to Coastline, which in turn leases the operation to Logistec. Coastline also owns a terminal in New Haven. Gateway Terminal, also locally based, is another owner in New Haven. And there are a couple of other smaller owner/operators there.
Among the goods that come through New Haven are steel and lumber, cargo commonly referred to as break bulk, which means it is not in containers. New Haven also handles such bulk items as salt, sand and pumice, and ships out scrap metal.
All of which points to one key difference between Connecticut's ports and the six that could come under Dubai Ports World. With its minimal use of containers, Connecticut's ports effectively eliminate what is widely regarded as the largest security concern associated with international shipping.
It is the containers, some 95 percent of which are not inspected, that many officials fear could easily contain a bomb. It is generally agreed that tanker vessels, which accounted for more than 1,100 of the 1,250 ship and barge arrivals in all three Connecticut ports in 2005, are more difficult to tamper with and therefore pose less of a risk.
Which doesn't mean there aren't security concerns. In Connecticut, those concerns mainly involve people getting to places they shouldn't be. In 2004, two Turkish crew members jumped from their ship into the water and swam across New Haven Harbor to Long Wharf where they fled. They have never been apprehended. Stowaways have also turned up, though not frequently, according to the Coast Guard.
As in all ports, the Coast Guard oversees security. In Connecticut, it is based at Sector Long Island Sound, which is headquartered along the New Haven waterfront.. The Customs and Border Patrol is responsible for cargo security. Both operate within the federal Department of Homeland Security.
The most common security breach, according to the Coast Guard, is people trespassing on the tank farms at the port to get to the waterfront, usually to fish under the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge, which runs over New Haven Harbor where it meets the Quinnipiac River. There was also an incident in 2003 when two people were found videotaping the harbor from the bridge. They were later found to be illegal aliens and were deported.
Typical cargo problems, according to Customs, are small drug seizures and pests associated with agricultural products.
Under measures instituted after 9/11, all ships arriving from overseas must give the Coast Guard 96-hour advance notice. Before 9/11, notice was 24 hours.
During those four days, Coast Guard scrutiny includes screening the vessel's crew and cargo and asking about its last five ports of call. The Coast Guard then determines whether to board the ship.
In Bridgeport, where a ship carrying produce from Colombia arrives weekly, it is not uncommon for divers to check its bottom and police dogs to check its cabins, and the containers to be emptied and inspected.
Additionally, each terminal owner or operator is required to have a security plan approved by the Coast Guard. Most include security guards, locked fences, lighting, surveillance cameras, alarms and security cards.
In New Haven's port, the city maintains a camera surveillance system that is monitored at a central operations center. City police conduct patrols. New Haven has the added concern of the Northeast Heating Oil Reserve, which is in tanks adjacent to the port.
But many long-time participants in international shipping said that simply worrying about security on the receiving end neglects the bigger issue. Security starts at the point of export, they said, not with who runs the ports in the United States. And foreign presences at American ports are a fact of shipping life because trade is multinational by definition. In Connecticut, for example, any number of foreign-affiliated companies supply the petroleum products that arrive.
“This is a part of the globalization of free trade, and we're probably going to see more of that,” said Martin Toyen, chairman of the Connecticut Maritime Commission, a government-appointed advisory panel on matters pertaining to commerce in Long Island Sound.
Mr. Toyen, whose daughter, Amy, was killed on 9/11 in the World Trade Center, said he isn't concerned about Dubai Ports and does not believe that as a tanker operation Motiva poses much of a problem.
“We have to put systems in place to give us the security to play in the world marketplace,” Mr. Toyen said. But he added: “I'm not sure we have those systems in place. We want to be able to stop a bomb where it goes on.”

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