From this View

Shippers Must Choose Between Ports Of Iran And Baltimore

March 29, 2013

Jay Bernstein 

“In every generation they rise up to attempt to destroy us.”

These words from the Haggadah are particularly relevant this year, as an Iranian regime that sponsors terrorism, violates its citizens’ rights and proudly asserts its goal of obliterating Israel, approaches nuclear weapons capability.

Rather than causing despair, the Passover season should inspire Jewish communities to mobilize in support of efforts to extend and strengthen sanctions against Iran and to ensure that companies that do business with Iran are completely isolated.  For us in Baltimore, energy and resources should now be focused on the shameful use of the Port of Baltimore by shipping companies that continue to operate in Iran.

We are privileged to live in a state that has been at the forefront of the Iranian sanctions movement.  In recent years, Maryland has enacted legislation divesting the state pension fund from companies doing business in Iran and barring companies that invest in Iran’s energy sector from receiving state contracts. These laws are intended to end the economic and financial support that the Iranian regime receives from these companies, and thereby compel Iran to abandon its illegal nuclear weapons program, support for terrorism and gross human-rights violations.

Unfortunately, the state’s clear public policy of cutting ties with companies that do business in Iran has not deterred customers of the Port of Baltimore, such as Evergreen Marine, United Arab Shipping Company, CMA CGM, Hyundai Merchant Marine, Orient Overseas Container Line, CSAV and NYK Group from continuing to operate in the ports of Iran. Iran’s ports are operated by Tidewater Middle East Company, an entity controlled by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards, which manages Iran’s nuclear program.

Toleration of these shipping companies’ ongoing relationship with the Iranian regime not only violates Maryland’s public policy, but also is contrary to the National Defense Authorization Act signed by President Barack Obama in January.

As an initial and minimum step, state authorities, such as officials of the Maryland Port Administration, should notify Ports America (which operates the Seagirt Marine Terminal under a public-private lease with the state) and shippers such as Evergreen of the unacceptability of Maryland ports being used by companies doing business in Iran and urge these shippers to immediately cease their operations in Iran. Recent history has shown that companies that do business in Iran are responsive to such constructive criticism and often end operations in Iran when sufficient pressure is brought to bear upon them.

If operations in Iran persist, more severe measures should be considered, including the banning of shippers active in Iran from the Port of Baltimore.

As concerned citizens who are keenly sensitive to the threat that a nuclear Iran will impose upon the United States, Israel and the entire world, it is our obligation to demand that Maryland force shippers to choose between the business of America and the business of Iran.  Hopefully, shippers confronted with this choice will choose America’s business over Iran’s, and in so doing, ensure the fulfillment of the haggadah’s promise that ultimately “the Holy One Blessed Be He delivers us from the hands of our tormentors.”

Jay Bernstein is vice president of the Baltimore Zionist District and host of Shalom USA Radio.