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SSA Marine--profile of a profiteer

by Daniel Borgström
Stevedoring Services of America, which recently shortened its name to “SSA Marine,” is a multi-national corporation with headquarters in Seattle. War profiteer, privatizer and globalizer, this corporate thug was involved in the police attack at the Oakland docks on April 7, 2003. On the anniversary of that day--let us return to the Port of Oakland to picket SSA.
When US troops rolled into Iraq last year, SSA Marine followed close behind, spearheading the corporate invasion. Only five days into the war, SSA received a no-bid contract to operate the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr. Two weeks later, on April 7, 2003, when police fired “less-lethal” munitions at protesters and longshoremen at the Oakland docks, SSA officials were involved in the attack.

The normal function of a stevedoring company is the loading and unloading of ships. But SSA has gone beyond that and is also in the business of taking over and running seaports. It has been doing that on a global scale. Last year SSA completed its privatization of four major Mexican ports. That puts the company in control of 45 percent of Mexico’s cargo.

The Puget Sound Business Journal admiringly calls SSA “a powerhouse that keeps getting bigger and more influential,” and estimates that company revenues for 2002 exceeded one billion dollars. It’s the largest stevedoring company in the U.S. and has close ties to the Bush regime--the kind of ties that got it the contract for Umm Qasr, Iraq’s only deep-water port. SSA’s lobbyist is Reginald Bashur, a former aid to George W. Bush when he was governor of Texas.

One of SSA’s current takeover targets is the port of Chittagong in Bangladesh. This privatization attempt has been opposed by a broad grassroots coalition led by the dockworkers of that country with strikes, demonstrations and court battles. The union warned that since Bangladesh has only that one active seaport, a takeover by SSA would have enormous consequences. “The whole country as its hinterland will go under the foreign rule,” said union leaders. “The whole country will be subjugated.”

Although the Bangladeshis have won for the time being, the Bush regime has intervened on behalf of SSA to put pressure on the government of Bangladesh.

This is an example of what SSA is attempting to do worldwide, often with considerable success. SSA is an empire-building corporation, both abroad and here in America as well. During the 2002 lockout of longshoremen, SSA showed itself to be vehemently anti-union. On that occasion, the Bush regime, acting through Tom Ridge of Homeland Security, intervened in favor of SSA.

Time and again, we’ve seen the Bush regime and SSA working together; the cozy relationship and repeated interventions of the Bush regime on behalf of SSA have caused some to wonder if Homeland Security might also have played a role in the police attack of April 7, 2003 on the Oakland docks. Was there any communication between Homeland Security and Oakland officials? On that we can only speculate. Other things are quite out in the open.

SSA has revealed a serious lack of tolerance for the exercise of civil liberties. That was seen last year on April 7th. The several dozen people who were injured that day at the Oakland docks can testify that SSA is extremely pro-violence. Nevertheless, when protesters returned to the port five weeks later, SSA officials avoided confrontation, and as one protester put it, “We counted coup on SSA.”

This year, on the anniversary of the shootings, protesters will once again return to the Oakland docks to protest SSA’s imperial agenda and to reaffirm our endangered First Amendment rights. Please join us.

Direct Action to Stop the War (DASW)

People United for a Better Oakland (PUEBLO)

“Remember the shots! Return to the docks!”
Indymedia archives & news updates:

“Whose Port?” --a 30,000 word account of the events of the Oakland Port Protest from April 7 to May 12, 2003:


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