CNNs Dobbs Scoffs at Extra Port Security

     CNNs Lou Dobbs is always pontificating about national security, especially when it comes to international trade but on March 27 he was frowning on an extra port security measure.

     Almost two weeks after reporting that American seaports are backlogged with incoming cargo, Dobbs seemed puzzled as to why the U.S. government would sanction pre-screening of U.S.-bound cargo at a port in the Bahamas which could speed up cargo processing.

     Why in the world are we, 90 miles from the U.S. mainland, why are we issuing contracts and putting cargo through the Bahamas? Dobbs demanded of John Meredith, an executive for Hong Kong-based shipping company Hutchison Whampoa. Merediths company was recently awarded a contract by the federal government to screen U.S.-bound container ships for radioactive material while the ships are docked in Freeport, Bahamas. Hutchison Whampoa, which has been around since the 1800s, operates in 54 countries and 42 ports, according to its Web site.

     But while Dobbs presented the Hutchison ownership as a security threat, the Associated Press reported how the measure increases port security and could speed up imports by reducing security bottlenecks.

     The Associated Press reported on March 27 that any positive reading for radiation would set off alarms monitored simultaneously by Bahamian customs inspectors at Freeport and by U.S. customs officials working at an anti-terrorism center in northern Virginia.

     On March 25 the AP reported that cargo pre-screened at foreign ports under the container security initiative can be processed faster through American ports.

     When Meredith responded that shipping companies often choose the Bahamas as a transit hub for international cargo and that U.S.-bound cargo would still be inspected upon arrival at American ports, Dobbs told his guest he was out of time.

     The CNN anchor then smugly rebuked Merediths attempt to illustrate his points. I told you, we didn't have time for history lessons. I'm sorry that you chose to use your time in that way, Dobbs chided his guest.

     Thirteen days earlier, Dobbs himself alerted viewers that American ports were nearing full capacity with incoming cargo.

     We are importing so many consumer goods now that some experts say, in fact, we will have to build the equivalent of the Port of New York and New Jersey each and every year for the next decade to keep up with that pace of imports, Dobbs complained on his March 14 show, introducing a report by correspondent Christine Romans.

     Industry groups say without dramatic productivity gains in this country's ports and investments in port and rail infrastructure, a congestion crisis is inevitable, Romans warned in her report.