by John Konrad (gCaptain) As concerns over the potential use of Chinese-made cranes for gathering information on U.S. military equipment continue to grow, Members of the House China Select Committee, under the leadership of Chairman Mike Gallagher, have convened at the Port of Miami to examine the issue and propose legislation aimed at inspecting port cranes and banning the use of cranes with software susceptible to Chinese control.
These cargo cranes, reportedly equipped with sophisticated sensors that collect and transmit data on U.S. military supplies, have prompted worries among US lawmakers and Pentagon officials who liken the devices to a “Trojan horse.”
In a bid to provide a comprehensive assessment, Committee lawmakers will scrutinize how these cranes might be exploited by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for espionage or the disruption of American goods and military assets. The lawmakers’ initiative follows a Wall Street Journal report on the Pentagon’s perception of these cranes as potential national security threats.
“The threat posed by the CCP is not over there, it is right here at home,” Gallagher said in a recent statement. “The threat is in our ports and gives China the ability to disrupt America’s entire domestic economy.”
Since the U.S. downed a Chinese surveillance balloon in January, concerns over Beijing’s surveillance techniques have intensified. Shanghai Telephone Heavy Industries (ZPMC) has supplied numerous ports with cranes over the years. With nearly 80% of cranes in U.S. ports being manufactured by China’s ZPMC, a subsidiary of China Transportation Construction, the situation has raised alarm within the U.S. national-security community and the FBI.
“70 percent of the cranes used in our nation today are being controlled by communist party in China,” said US Congressman Carlos A. Gimenez. “I have introduced legislation to outlaw Chinese-made software that controls these cranes.”
While the potential security risks of these cranes are at the forefront, it is also important to consider why ZPMC cranes have been adopted by so many ports around the world. According to industry executives, ZPMC cranes are of good quality and significantly cheaper than those offered by Western suppliers, which has helped U.S. ports to reduce costs and remain competitive.
In a statement released in early March ZPMC said, “ZPMC always strictly complies with the laws and regulations of applicable countries. ZPMC cranes have been designed and manufactured in strict accordance to clients’ functional and technical requirements. ZPMC strives to deliver the safest and most reliable equipment, and help its clients to build first-class, green, low-carbon and smart ports.”
The broader context of this issue includes China’s growing control over global trade and infrastructure. In recent years, U.S. national security officials have pointed to a range of Chinese-manufactured equipment that could facilitate surveillance or disruptions in the U.S., such as baggage-screening systems and electrical transformers. Furthermore, Gallagher says China’s strategic investments have allowed it to gain control of ports around the world, making almost all of the world’s new shipping containers and controlling a shipping data service.
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