Despite protests from Quakers and representatives of other religious agencies, the North Carolina Ports Authority has voted unanimously to renew a lease permitting a shipping firm to use dockside storage space at state-owned facilities in Wilmington for shipment of armaments to Iran.
The action allows the Wilmington Shipping Company, as agent for Arya Shipping Lines, an Iran government agency that transports armaments, to continue using state facilities.
Authority Chairman Thomas F. Taft defended the decision, saying arms shipments to foreign countries are authorized by a policy decision made in Washington, and that complaints about them should be directed to federal authorities.
"It is a business deal that is good business for the port," he said. "The authority is a service organization which provides service to shippers, and it is not our prerogative to judge the nature or destination of cargoes as long as they are within the laws of the state and nation."
Taft earlier rejected a protest and a request for a "public hearing" on the arms shipments submitted by William George Eppinette of Raleigh, representative of the southeast regional office of the American Friends Service Committee.
The Quakers charged that use of state port facilities involves both economic and moral questions, and is "placing Wilmington in the center of a possible Vietnam-type conflict in the Persian Gulf area."