An Arab company's potential takeover of some marine terminals at six major ports on the East Coast has raised questions about foreign operations at US seaport facilities. Yet, such arrangements have been commonplace at West Coast ports for years. "On the West Coast, almost all the ports have their terminals operated by foreign companies," said Ivan Eland, senior fellow at The Independent Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy research organization based in Oakland, California. About half of the port terminals on the East Coast are managed by companies based overseas, he added. Most of the cargo that enters the United States comes through huge ports in Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland and the Seattle-Tacoma area of Washington. Each has marine terminals operated by foreign shipping lines many from Europe and Asia. A political firestorm erupted this week after it was learned that the Bush administration approved a deal by United Arab Emirates-based Dubai Ports World to acquire London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. Many lawmakers have voiced concern over whether the transaction could lead to possible security risks at docks where Dubai Ports would operate terminals. Nearly all ports around the United States are owned by governments, which lease terminals to private companies that must adhere to security and labor rules as part of the deals, said Marc Hershman, a professor at the University of Washington School of Marine Affairs. For decades, scores of firms ran cargo operations at US ports. But many have been swallowed up by larger, foreign-owned companies. "There has been a huge consolidation within the terminal operating world," Hershman said.