Zhenhua Heavy Industries Co. Ltd (ZPMC), a China government-owned company that makes 80% of the cranes used by American ports, is the latest concern for officials worried that China’s spying tools could easily be deployed by the high-tech, sky-scraping, next-generation cranes.
A report from the Wall Street Journal says that the Pentagon has been pondering the sophisticated sensors that can be deployed at the tops of the cranes, that officials compare to a Trojan horse — one that can register, track, and transmit data about what is being shipped in and out of ports such as the Port of Seattle and the Port of Tacoma, which have several of the ZPMC cranes.
The cranes could also provide remote access for a government looking to disrupt the flow of goods, said Bill Evanina, a former top U.S. counterintelligence official, as reported by the newspaper.
Although the Port of Alaska doesn’t currently use ZPMC cranes, such cranes could watch the comings and goings at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, as well as material coming and going from the port that supplies most of Alaska with goods. Like a drone recording images from the sky, this is the kind of security risk that keeps the Pentagon up at night.
ZPMC doesn’t need to turn a profit, unlike its international competitors, according to experts. That means the price for a ZPMC crane could be well below the $12 million or more that is typically charged.
The cranes reach over 160 feet in the air and are typically used in areas with unobstructed views from the top, which has electronics, including cameras. With the booms up, the cranes stand 434 feet high – as tall as a 30-floor building.
Democrat Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington State celebrated the new cranes coming from China into Seattle two years ago.
“Farmers, manufacturers, and other exporters from Washington state to the Midwest depend on the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma to quickly move their products to buyers in Asia and beyond,” said Cantwell, referring to the latest shipment of the China-built cranes at the Port of Seattle. “Expanding capacity at Seattle’s Terminal 5 to handle the largest, newest cargo ships is critical to keeping our ports competitive in the global economy.”
Former Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan also welcomed the China-made cranes: “The maritime industry is part of Seattle’s DNA and home to great workers like ILWU Local 19. The new cranes at the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 5 are key to our economic recovery and will bring a boost to our local economy, speed up shipping for businesses that are reopening, and provide additional family wage jobs to folks who are returning to work.
“We believe The Northwest Seaport Alliance and Terminal 5, have a very strong future ahead. The purchase of these new cranes underscores our commitment to the market and our customers. We know larger ships carrying increased volumes are coming. We want to be out in front of that curve and are preparing our terminal to service our customers’ needs,” stated Ed DeNike, President of SSA Terminals, in 2021.
“Our investment in Terminal 5 ensures that our gateway remains competitive for the next 30 years and beyond,” said Port of Tacoma Commission President and NWSA Co-Chair Dick Marzano. “By adding additional deep-water terminal space, we can serve the largest vessels in the industry and increase cargo volumes that benefit our local, state, and regional economy.”
But all of the celebrating of the made-in-China cranes occurred before the communist government was found to be floating high-tech spy balloons over America.