U.S. To Invest Billions In Domestic Cargo Cranes: Taking National Security Concerns Seriously Finally?

By Tommy Wilson | Thursday, 22 February 2024 01:50 PM
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In a strategic move to counter potential national security threats, the Biden administration is set to invest billions in domestically manufactured cargo cranes, replacing Chinese-made ones currently in operation.

This initiative is part of a broader plan to enhance U.S. maritime security, which includes upgrading cybersecurity standards for computer networks and foreign-built cranes at seaports, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.

U.S. intelligence agencies have expressed concerns over China's multifaceted efforts to conduct espionage on American soil and disrupt national cybersecurity. Previous apprehensions were raised about the colossal Chinese cranes at U.S. seaports, some of which are utilized by the military. These cranes were perceived as a potential surveillance threat with the capacity to disrupt American shipping. Beijing, however, dismissed these concerns over Chinese cyber threats in the U.S. as "paranoia driven."

Anne Neuberger, U.S. deputy national security adviser on cyber and emerging technology, voiced her concerns to The Wall Street Journal, stating, "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.”

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Rear Adm. John Vann, head of the Coast Guard’s cyber command, further highlighted the potential vulnerabilities of these cranes. He told The Wall Street Journal, "By design, these cranes may be controlled, serviced and programmed from remote locations. These features potentially leave [Chinese]-manufactured cranes vulnerable to exploitation.”

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The existing Chinese-built cranes, while relatively inexpensive to produce, are equipped with a plethora of sensors and capabilities to monitor containers being shipped out of ports. This raises concerns that China could gain access to sensitive information about equipment shipped to support the U.S. military. In response, the Biden administration has chosen to replace these with domestically-built cranes, manufactured by the U.S. subsidiary of Japanese company Mitsui.

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Over the next five years, more than $20 billion will be invested in the production of these cranes, as reported by The Wall Street Journal. The project will be financed by a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by Congress in 2021. This marks the first time in over 30 years that such cranes will be domestically produced.

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U.S. intelligence agencies have warned that China-backed hacking and cyber operations are targeting crucial American infrastructure systems, such as water or energy plants. In an emergency situation, such as a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan, China could disrupt these systems, thereby crippling an American response.

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