Turns Out China’s Even Got the Cranes in US Ports Bugged

Samo Trebizan / shutterstock.com
Samo Trebizan / shutterstock.com

A report from the Wall Street Journal has exposed Chinese crane manufacturer ZMPC for hiding communications equipment on the cheap cranes it supplies to US ports. A congressional probe into the industry revealed that communications equipment isn’t uncommon on cranes, but it was not ordered on these models. Specifically, the equipment discovered was not something someone would use in standard operations.

US Intelligence reports have evidence that China could use this equipment to monitor the ports and triangulate the movements of containers and cranes. They could also exploit the cranes and hamper national security. Conversely, Chinese officials claim there is nothing to worry about, and people are being paranoid. They allege that the investigation could block normal operations as well as serve to stoke the flames of problems between the US and China.

Rep. Mark Green (R-TN), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told the WSJ that people should be alarmed. “[Beijing] is 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. The United States has clearly overlooked this threat for far too long.”

In December, one port testified that they had seen the modems on the cranes while inspecting them in China before delivery around 2017. Removed in October 2023, there is no telling what kind of information they transmitted or were capable of. One sure thing is that the cellular modems that were installed were meant to be quickly installed, removed, and changed.

Homeland Security previously told the ZMPC they were aware of multiple requests for remote access to the cranes and infrastructure at US seaports. While many might argue these requests as business as usual, this is the kind of intel that makes it easy to take down entire ports. It’s also part of the reason entities like the US Navy and Coast Guard keep a careful eye on the port and the traffic in and out of them.

Learning of this horrific and shortsighted problem should alarm many Americans. While, as a nation, we are not overloaded with ports, the ones we do have are crucial to a successful and prosperous economy. They welcome in and ship our trillions of dollars in goods and services per day. Bugging the cranes that provide such transactions is a quick way to destroy all of it.