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Pentagon Officials, Lawmakers Warn of Chinese Spy Cranes at U.S. Ports

National security and Pentagon officials are warning about the potential use of giant Chinese-made and operated cranes as intelligence collection tools at United States ports, which are not only critical for U.S. shipping but the U.S. military.

These cranes, made by Chinese manufacturer ZPMC (Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries Co.), contain sophisticated sensors that can register and track the provenance and destination of containers, prompting concern among officials and lawmakers that China could track U.S. military operations around the world, according to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal.

The cranes manufactured by ZPMC account for nearly 80% of ship-to-shore cranes in use at U.S. ports, and are regulated through Chinese-made software, financed by Chinese nationals working on two-year U.S. visas, the report said. The cranes could also equip China a way to disturb the flow of goods, according to Bill Evanina, a former top counterintelligence official cited by the WSJ.

The container ship Northern Javelin is worked by ship to shore cranes at the Port of Savannah on Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014, in Savannah, Ga. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed an agreement today allowing the Army Corps of Engineers to begin the long-sought deepening of the Savannah harbor using $266 million in state money. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

ZPMC is a subordinate of China Communications Construction Co. (CCCC), which is a principal  contractor for the Chinese government’s gigantic Belt and Road initiative to build infrastructure and trade routes from China to the rest of the world that desires to thwart the U.S.’s dominance of the high seas.

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In 2020, U.S. authorities limited five CCCC units’ access to U.S. technology, given Chinese laws that give its military the capability to access input gathered up by Chinese civilian firms.

Chris Wolski, a former cybersecurity official for the port of Houston told the paper, “It wouldn’t be hard for an attacker to disable one sensor on a crane and prevent the crane from moving.”

A Chinese Embassy representative called those worries “paranoia-driven,” according to the report, but according to the report, the cranes have raised concerns throughout the U.S. government, after ports in Virginia, South Carolina, and Maryland that are at times used by nearby U.S. military bases obtained new cranes.

The FBI in 2021 reportedly searched a cargo ship delivering ZPMC cranes to the Baltimore port and found “intelligence-gathering equipment to board.”

 

 

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Ella Ford is a mother of two, a Christian conservative writer with degrees in American History, Social and Behavioral Science and Liberal Studies, based in the Tulsa, Oklahoma area.

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