I'm mentioned in a couple of post responses that I was actually more comfortable with the UAE being gov't owned than privately held.
Brant over at Strange Women Lying in Ponds comes in with his particular brand of expertise (maritime lawyer) on the subject. And I believe it's worthy of passing on enmasse.
And even though I am, in part, a maritime lawyer who deals with cruise lines, stevedoring companies, port agents, the Coast Guard, U.S. Customs, etc., on a regular basis (and hold a security pass to a major local port), even I do not feel terribly much qualified to pronounce judgment on this situation. So I have to wonder how suddenly everybody and his grandmother has become an expert on port operations.
I can say that I have never heard anybody express concern for port security based on who the management company happened to be a given point in time. And I can add with some degree of certainty that the "owner" of a given port (for the Port of Miami, the owner is Miami-Dade County) can fire the management company upon the expiration of the management contract. There could be something to the suggestion that a management company could be in a position to acquire intimate knowledge of port security operations, but I doubt that such knowledge would be anything that could not be obtained through very basic intelligence work (much of it available via open resources).
For example, someone could establish a front company for providing goods or services to one or more of the cruise lines, and by that route could obtain port passes and knowledge of security operations through its employees (as long as they could pass the County's background security check). There are all kinds of small companies that serve the port and which have employees going into secure areas on a regular basis.
It would even be easier to crew a cargo ship or cruise ship with Islamist informants or sympathizers. Crew manning agencies are located in just about every Third-World country you can think of, including Islamist hot-spots like Pakistan, the Philippines, Nigeria, etc. My former firm arrested a vessel shortly after 9/11 that turned out to be owned by the government of Egypt (no better or worse an ally than the UAE) and had an all-Egyptian crew. No word on whether any of them were al Qaida sympathizers, but it wouldn't be a stretch if some were. And this was a vessel that sat docked at the Port of Miami for several days on a regular basis.
The upshot is that a port can be targeted in numerous ways, but doing it through a state-owned management company would probably be among the more problematic ways to do it. Most painfully obvious is the fact that any infiltration of port security through the management company would be immediately traced back to the state-owned management company, and therefore the state (in this case, the UAE) would lack any plausible deniability (remember that term?) if anything were to go "boom."
Brant says he hopes to post more on this, and has contacts with some of the legal team that has filed a counter lawsuit in Miami to halt the ports sale. I personally can't wait to read his ensuing stuff, and have added him as a bookmark!