NEWARK, N.J. -- The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the state of New Jersey are separately moving to block DP World from assuming control of the Port Newark Container Terminal.
The port authority is filing suit today to terminate DP World's lease at PNCT until it can be satisfied that security concerns raised by its takeover of P&O Ports have been addressed, according to Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the port authority.
"I'm trying to put a stop to it before it's filed," said Donald P. Hamm, president of PNCT.
P&O has a 30-year lease with the port authority that would be taken over by DP World, owned by the government of Dubai, on March 2 unless Congress intervenes. President Bush has promised to veto any legislation blocking the sale.
Coleman said the port authority does not have the jurisdiction to block the acquisition, but that it can terminate the lease because it owns the land on which the terminal is located.
Port Authority Chairman Anthony Coscia said Thursday his agency would file a lawsuit today in New Jersey State Superior Court in Essex County.
"We as owners of that facility should be made comfortable that whoever operates that facility is capable of it," Coscia said.
Coscia said he wrote to Treasury Secretary John Snow asking for details about how the federal government determined it was safe to allow DP World to buy a British company now doing business at the terminal.
"Unfortunately we have not received an answer to our inquiries," he said following a meeting Thursday of the port authority's board in New York.
Our issue here is one of lack of information," said Coscia. "We have an absolute responsibility to feel comfortable that security is at the very highest level."
He said the agency "would like to have a better understanding as to who exactly would be in charge of operating the ports, what personnel would be involved, what kind of screening would be put in place to insure that individuals who would have control or access to information...are properly screened, et cetera."
The port authority said it is not filing suit because of specific concerns about the Dubai company but based on concerns that the government's secret vetting process was not thorough enough.
New Jersey on Thursday sued the Bush administration to block DP World from taking over operations at PNCT until the federal government investigates possible security risks.
New Jersey's lawsuit names several Bush Cabinet members, including Snow, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, in connection with their membership on the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States, which approved the deal.
The lawsuit charges that the committee told DP World that no investigation of the transaction was required, in violation of a statute mandating such a probe when an acquisition by an entity controlled by a foreign government could affect national security.
The New Jersey Office of Counter-Terrorism requested documents submitted to the committee by DP World, but has not been given all the information sought, the lawsuit said.
As a result, New Jersey is asking a judge to order the committee to investigate the deal and provide state officials with documents the company gave to the committee, as well as other information relating to the transaction.
New Jersey's action was filed in U.S. District Court in Trenton, but was expected to be transferred to the federal court in Newark, said Roger Shatzkin, a spokesman for the state attorney general's office.