Los Angeles Port Head Says Chinese Cranes Pose Security Risk

Gene Seroka Sees Chinese-Dominated Crane Business as Potential Concern
Port of Oakland cranes
Cranes above a ship at the Port of Oakland in California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images via Bloomberg News)

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The head of the busiest U.S. maritime gateway said Chinese-made cranes pose a potential risk to national security, but a shortage of other countries that build the giant container-moving machines makes it challenging to address the vulnerability.

“They’re collecting data, they’re looking at information,” Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, said in an interview Feb. 22 on Bloomberg Television’s Surveillance. “What they’re using that data for is the question.”

Biden administration officials are concerned that more than 200 ship-to-shore cranes at U.S. ports are manufactured by China and can be serviced and programmed remotely, creating a security vulnerability. Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries Co. — known as ZPMC — is the dominant player in the global market for gantry cranes used to load and unload cargo ships.

“It is a risk, but who else makes the cranes?” Seroka said. Among the questions is how to “create that industry here in the United States,” he said, adding that “this is a great watch-out for all of us in the port industry.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said Feb. 23 at a regular press briefing in Beijing that “the claim that China uses cranes at ports to collect information which threatens security is completely absurd.”

“We firmly oppose the U.S. overstretching the concept of national security and abusing state power to go after Chinese products and companies,” she said.

A U.S.-based subsidiary of Japanese manufacturing conglomerate Mitsui E&S Co. is planning to increase its domestic crane capacity in the U.S., with hopes of accessing some of the $20 billion in federal money for port infrastructure authorized across legislation signed during Joe Biden’s presidency.

Shares of Mitsui E&S jumped about 26% in trading in Tokyo on Feb. 22.

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