US Plans To Invest $20 Billion Into Port, Cargo Security

In response to fears that Chinese-built cranes used at several U.S. ports threaten national security, it has been reported that the U.S. plans to invest billions to replace the cranes with ones built domestically.

The move is part of a larger plan announced on Wednesday to improve maritime cybersecurity. Officials say more than $20 billion will be invested in port security, including domestic cargo crane production, over the next five years.

The funds are reported to come from the $1 trillion infrastructure bill passed in 2021. They would support a U.S. subsidiary of Mitsui, a Japanese company, to produce the cranes, which officials say would be the first time in 30 years they would be built domestically.

“We felt there was a real strategic risk here. These cranes, because they are essentially moving large-scale containers in and out of port if they were encrypted in a criminal attack or rented or operated by an adversary, could have a real impact on our economy’s movement of goods and our military’s movement of goods through ports,” says Anne Neuberger, U.S. deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology.

China has previously dismissed U.S. concerns about Beijing-backed cyber threats, including cranes, as paranoia-driven.

Following an investigation by the Wall Street Journal, it was revealed that giant cranes made by a Chinese state-owned company in use at several U.S. ports could present an espionage and disruption risk. Cranes at some ports used by the U.S. military were flagged as surveillance threats. Officials also raised the concern that the Chinese could manipulate the crane software to impede American shipping or, worse, temporarily disrupt the crane operation.

“By design, these cranes may be controlled, serviced, and programmed from remote locations. These features potentially leave PRC-manufactured cranes vulnerable to exploitation,” said Rear Adm. John Vann, who leads the Coast Guard cyber command, during a press briefing.

While well-made and inexpensive, the cranes manufactured by ZPMC contain sophisticated sensors that can register and track the origin and destination of containers. They account for nearly 80% of ship-to-shore cranes in use at U.S. ports, officials said.

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