Port Security Debate: What's the Impact On Cruising?

February 23, 2006
Cruise travelers, responding to the increasing cacophony of the debate over whether or not the U.S. should allow a British port operator to sell its U.S. ports operations to a Dubai company, are understandably confused. They're asking us the big question: How will this impact the safety and security at U.S. ports?

First it's important to explain that the ports impacted by the sale of P&O Ports North America, part of the British-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, are New York, Newark, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Miami and New Orleans. If the sale to United Arab Emirates' Dubai Ports World goes through (and let us just clarify: the Dubai company is buying all of the entities of P&O not just its North American port operations), politicos and travelers alike are questioning whether the impacted ports would then represent a serious security concern -- for cruise traffic as well as for cargo vessels.

Does it?

According to Carnival Corporation Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Micky Arison -- the most influential man in the cruise industry -- it does not. "It's all political," he told Cruise Critic's Carolyn Spencer Brown yesterday at an event celebrating the christening of Holland America's Noordam. "I don't think it's an issue." (It should be pointed out that P&O Princess Cruises, once a part of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, demerged in 2000 and is now owned by Carnival Corporation).

The folks at the International Council of Cruise Lines, the industry's politically-oriented lobbying organization, concur, telling us that "Port security regulations and oversight remain the same no matter the owner, so there isn't an industry position on this issue."

At this point the verdict on the issue is still out -- way out -- but we'll keep you posted.