On the China-Built Cranes at Our Ports, a Worrisome Find

Congressional probe finds modems that have no apparent purpose
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 9, 2024 4:00 PM CST
On the China-Built Cranes at US Ports, a Concerning Find
   (Getty Images / thitivong)

America plans to spend billions to produce homegrown cargo cranes and swap them out for the China-built cranes that currently stand at many US ports—and a new report from the Wall Street Journal underscores the reasoning for the move. In announcing the effort last month, the Biden administration cited the potential risk posed by the cranes, both in terms of espionage and economic disruption. Now, the Journal reports a congressional investigation of more than 200 cranes built by China's ZPMC that are present at US ports "has found communications equipment that doesn't appear to support normal operations."

As far as that equipment goes, the article specifically mentions cellular modems with remote-access capabilities. While the Journal notes that it's not atypical for a modem to be placed on a crane to facilitate the transmission of operations and maintenance information, "it appears that at least some of the ports using the ZPMC-made equipment hadn't asked for that capability," with one port saying it was aware of the modems' presence but had no explanation as to why they were there. CNN describes the modems as having "no clear purpose or record of their installation."

At one US port, more than a dozen cellular modems were found on active crane components, an aide to the House Homeland Security Committee tells the Journal, with an additional modem located in the server room of another port. China has dismissed the crane-related concerns in general as paranoia. (More port security stories.)

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