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Two FMC officials oppose sale of Ports America to Canada Pension Plan

Federal Maritime Commissioners Carl W. Bentzel and Louis E. Sola have strongly opposed the recent sale of Ports America, the biggest terminal operator in North America, to the giant Canada Pension Plan.

It was in late September that CPP Investments announced a definitive agreement to increase its minority stake to 100% ownership of Ports America, which handles 13.4 million containers in 33 ports. The transaction has been valued at over US$4 billion.

In a letter to United States Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen asking for a review of the deal, the two FMC officials said:“This proposed acquisition is an all too familiar repetition of a US transportation and supply chain asset being acquired by foreign investors. Our supply chain assets directly impact our domestic economy and our national security. They should not be treated as an ordinary resource to be sold to whomever can pay the highest price.”

They said that currently, the US global shipping market by water is served almost entirely by foreign-flagged vessels, while by rail, the Canadian Pacific Railroad is attempting to acquire the Kansas City Southern railroad.

“This could have severe impacts on port competitiveness in the Pacific Northwest,” noted FMC.

Such a review is not without precedent, according to the commissioners. They recalled that in 2006 the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States recognised the strategic importance of port terminal management and stevedoring operations and asserted its authority reviewing the acquisition of the North American operations of P&O Ports by DP World.

“Congress voted to block the DP World’s attempted control of P&O Ports North America’s marine terminal and stevedoring concessions at various US ports. It was this action that led to the creation of Ports America,” observed Mr. Bentzel and Mr. Sola. (Photo Port of Los Angeles)