US Will Spend Billions to Rid Ports of China-Made Cranes

It's part of an effort to strengthen marine cybersecurity
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 21, 2024 11:25 AM CST
US Will Spend Billions to Rid Ports of China-Made Cranes
Port Newark-Elizabeth marine terminal.   (Getty Images/Ultima_Gaina)

America will spend billions to produce homegrown cargo cranes and swap them out for the China-built cranes that currently stand at many US ports, the Biden administration announced Wednesday. It will be the first time that giant cargo cranes will be made domestically in 30 years, per the Wall Street Journal, which notes a US subsidiary of the Japanese company Mitsui will manufacture them. The move falls under an executive order signed by President Biden on Wednesday that's designed to beef up maritime cybersecurity, with more than $20 billion earmarked for doing so over a five-year period.

Port operators will have to adhere to a new set of cybersecurity regulations, which the AP frames as "not unlike standardized safety regulations that seek to prevent injury or damage to people and infrastructure." As Deputy National Security Adviser Anne Neuberger puts it, "We want to ensure there are similar requirements for cyber, when a cyberattack can cause just as much if not more damage than a storm or another physical threat."

About 80% of the giant cranes used to lift and move cargo off ships and onto US docks are China-made and controlled remotely. The Journal last year reported on the potential risk posed by the cranes, both in terms of espionage and economic disruption, and it sums up the risk neatly:

  • "While comparably well-made and inexpensive, the cranes, manufactured by the China-based manufacturer ZPMC, contain sophisticated sensors that can register and track the origin and destination of containers, prompting concerns that China could capture information about the shipment of materiel in or out of the country to support US military operations around the world."
  • Neuberger comes at it from another angle: "If they were encrypted in a criminal attack, or rented or operated by an adversary, that could have real impact on our economy's movement of goods and our military's movement of goods through ports." US ports employ more than 30 million people and pour $5.4 trillion into the economy.
(More US security stories.)

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