S Korea inspects Chinese cranes

News Story
- 27 Apr 2023 ( #1125 ) - Seoul, Korea, Republic Of
2 min read
ZPMC hold a 70% global marketshare for harbour cranes
ZPMC hold a 70% global marketshare for harbour cranes

South Korea is the latest nation to plan inspections of port cranes supplied by China. 

The South Korean government will inspect all Chinese-supplied cranes after the US government warned that cranes built by Shanghai Zhenhua Port Machinery Company (ZPMC) may be used for espionage purposes. 

It is understood there are 478 Chinese port cranes in operation in South Korea – out of a total fleet of 876 port cranes.

Media reports indicate that the South Korean government is planning to accelerate import replacement, having seen the global marketshare for its own cranes drop from 8.1% in 2003 to virtually zero.

The Korean move follows the passing of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed by the US Congress.

The bill called for a study of cybersecurity and national security threats posed by foreign-manufactured cranes at United States ports.

Under this provision, the Maritime Administrator, working with Homeland Security, the Pentagon and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), is required to study any potential cybersecurity or national security threats posed by harbour cranes.

A group of Republican leaders this month wrote to the Department of Homeland Security, pressing for an urgent threat assessment.

“We are particularly concerned about technology employed by Chinese-manufactured cranes operating in US ports, which significantly increases the cybersecurity risk to business operations systems and terminal industrial control systems,” the lawmakers wrote. 

According to analysts, concerns about cybersecurity at the US’s increasingly digitised ports have been rising for years. 

In September 2021, FBI counterintelligence agents conducted a search of the Chinese merchant ship that delivered four ZPMC port container cranes to Baltimore harbour. Details of the search have not been disclosed, but experts have warned of the risks associated with the communications technology that controls cranes' operations.

Other experts have warned that modern cranes are equipped with high-power cameras which could be used as surveillance tools – a risk also being addressed as the government removes Chinese-made surveillance camera systems from public facilities.

ZPMC, which is estimated to hold a 70% global marketshare – and nearly 89% in the US, has not commented on the speculation, but the fears have been rejected by China’s foreign ministry, with an official saying: "The claim is complete paranoia".

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