Chinese-Made Cranes at U.S. Ports Have Communications Gear Installed

Last month, the administration announced a $5 billion program to replace Chinese-made port cranes with domestically manufactured ones. The initiative was part of a $20 billion package to upgrade security at American ports.

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As it turns out, the decision to replace the Chinese cranes was necessary. A House investigation by the Homeland Security Committee assisted by the House Select Subcommittee on China discovered “unauthorized” communications equipment embedded in the cranes, including “undocumented cellular modems that can be used for remote communication,” according to the Washington Examiner.

The Chinese are “looking for every opportunity to collect valuable intelligence and position themselves to exploit vulnerabilities by systematically burrowing into America’s critical infrastructure, including in the maritime sector,” said Rep. Mark Green (R., Tenn.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. “The United States has clearly overlooked this threat for far too long.”

Anne Neuberger, U.S. deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology, explains the nature of the threat: “We felt there was real strategic risk here. These cranes, because they are essentially moving the large-scale containers in and out of port, 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.”

Wall Street Journal:

While it isn’t unusual for modems to be installed on cranes to remotely monitor operations and track maintenance, it appears that at least some of the ports using the ZPMC-made equipment hadn’t asked for that capability, according to congressional investigators and documents seen by The Wall Street Journal. One port with modems told lawmakers in a December letter that it was aware of their existence on the cranes, but couldn’t explain why they were installed.

ZPMC, a Chinese state-owned company, didn’t respond to requests for comment. Liu Pengyu, a spokesman at the Chinese embassy in Washington, didn’t address specific questions about the modems but said claims that China-made cranes pose a national-security risk to the U.S. is “entirely paranoia” and amounted to “abusing national power to obstruct normal economic and trade cooperation.”

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The risk of damage to our national security is too great to accept innocent explanations from the Chinese government and businesses. 

Republicans on the Homeland Security Committee sent a letter to the Chinese manufacturer of the cranes, ZPMC, demanding answers.

The letter to ZPMC said that lawmakers found that many cranes at U.S. ports were built at the company’s Changxing base adjacent to a shipyard on the Shanghai island where the Chinese navy builds advanced warships. It also said lawmakers had learned from briefings with ports and U.S. law-enforcement agencies that ZPMC had repeatedly made requests for remote access to U.S.-based cranes and other maritime infrastructure.

Chairman Green said in a statement to CNN: “Without a swift sea-change, we will continue to gift the CCP with an easy means of infiltrating our critical infrastructure on their quest for global dominance.”

As you can imagine, the Chinese were not too thrilled with the intimation they were spying on us using their cranes.

“We firmly oppose the U.S. overstretching the concept of national security and abusing national power to obstruct normal economic and trade cooperation between China and the U.S.,” Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, told CNN.

China, which sees any outreach by the U.S. to Taiwan as an act of war, is accusing the U.S. of “overstretching” the idea of national security whenever there are talks between American and Taiwan officials.

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Not even relevant.

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