Ports group dispels security threat from Chinese cranes

Congress gave the Federal Maritime Commission new avenues to regulate foreign shipping carriers calling on U.S. ports.

(WASHINGTON) — The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) has existed for 111 years to share collective knowledge and best practices on port security and safety. American public port authorities band together when it comes to security, safety, serving the public, serving the military, and serving the national interest.

Last week, AAPA clarified the record on recent reports that cranes sourced from China at ports pose a national security threat.

There have been no known security breaches as the result of any cranes at U.S. ports, despite alarmist media reports. Further, modern cranes are very fast and sophisticated but even they can’t track the origin, destination or nature of the cargo.

China has subsidized crane manufacturing in a way that makes their cranes half the cost. To correct this imbalance, the U.S. should build out its reshoring tools to bolster the manufacturing of critical equipment, the AAPA said.

“I like a good spy movie, but you need a smoking gun to make it a blockbuster, and there’s no smoke in this story,” said Cary Davis, AAPA’s vice president and general counsel. “But remember the image of the powerful middle America factory in the movie ‘The Deer Hunter’? Just picture American factories churning out world-class, connected, low-emissions and user-friendly cranes, trucks and tractors. That’s the opportunity we have here.”

Without reshoring our domestic manufacturing capacity, legislative proposals to hastily remove cranes from U.S. ports without immediate replacements would harm U.S. supply chains, jack up prices for everyone, and exacerbate inflation even further, according to the AAPA.

The industry has mitigated these issues for years through government partnerships. Seaports partner with government authorities to assess security vulnerabilities from every threat vector. Recent reports – citing sources that have worked directly with the industry – have at times conflated the approved equipment at ports with other Chinese technology that has consciously been rejected in the U.S. because of potential misuse.

AAPA has dedicated “trip wires” for anything that could threaten port operations, including a Technical Committee on Security and Safety. The committee has reported that it takes “very seriously the concerns raised about Chinese-made cranes operating at U.S. ports. In partnership with federal, state, and local law enforcement, ports have taken steps to detect and mitigate potential risks posed by these cranes. To the best of the committee’s knowledge, no kinetic or cyber incidents involving these cranes have been reported at U.S. ports.”

AAPA will soon introduce the Crane Reshoring and National Enforcement of Supply Chain Security (CRANES) Act of 2023 to jump-start American production of port equipment. The legislation will be unveiled at the industry’s Legislative Summit: Strong Ports, Strong America later this month.

– American Association of Port Authorities


By Rich Miller