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 operated through Chinese-made software, supported by Chinese nationals working on two-year U.S. visas, the report said. The cranes could also provide China a way to disrupt the flow of goods, according to Bill Evanina, a former top counterintelligence official cited by the WSJ.
ZPMC is a subsidiary of China Communications Construction Co. (CCCC), which is a leading contractor for the Chinese government’s massive Belt and Road initiative to build infrastructure and trade routes from China to the rest of the world that seeks to circumvent the U.S.’s dominance of the high seas.
In 2020, U.S. authorities limited five CCCC units’ access to U.S. technology, given Chinese laws that give its military the ability to access data scooped up by Chinese civilian firms.