U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order on plans to spend $20 billion over the next five years to bring the manufacturing of ship-to-shore cranes back to America even as the White House raised alarms of Chinese-made cranes being used to launch a cyberattack on America’s port infrastructure.

"PACECO, a U.S.-based subsidiary of Mitsui (Japan), is planning to onshore U.S. manufacturing capacity for its crane production. PACECO has a deep history in the container shipping industry, manufacturing the first dedicated ship-to-shore container crane in 1958, and it continued U.S.-based crane manufacturing until the late 1980s. PACECO intends to partner with other trusted manufacturing companies to bring port crane manufacturing capabilities back to the U.S. for the first time in 30 years, pending final site and partner selection," says an official release.

"The actions are clear examples of the President’s work to invest in America, secure the country’s supply chains, and strengthen the cybersecurity of the nation’s critical infrastructure against 21st century threats – priorities his administration has focused on relentlessly since taking office.

"America’s prosperity is directly linked to maritime trade and the integrated network of ports, terminals, vessels, waterways, and land-side connections that constitute the Nation’s Marine Transportation System (MTS). This complex system supports $5.4 trillion worth of economic activity each year, contributes to the employment of more than 31 million Americans, and supports nearly 95 percent of cargo entering the U.S."

Tackling port cyber security
The U.S. Coast Guard will now have express authority to respond to malicious cyber activity in the nation’s MTS by requiring vessels and waterfront facilities to mitigate cyber conditions that may endanger the safety of a vessel, facility, or harbour, the update added. "The Executive Order will also institute mandatory reporting of cyber incidents – or active cyber threats – endangering any vessel, harbour, port, or waterfront facility. Additionally, the Coast Guard will now have the authority to control the movement of vessels that present a known or suspected cyber threat to U.S. maritime infrastructure, and be able to inspect those vessels and facilities that pose a threat to our cybersecurity."

The U.S. Coast Guard will issue a Maritime Security Directive on cyber risk management actions for ship-to-shore cranes manufactured by the People’s Republic of China located at U.S. commercial strategic seaports. "Owners and operators of these cranes must acknowledge the directive and take a series of actions on these cranes and associated information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) systems. This action is a vital step to securing our maritime infrastructure’s digital ecosystem, and addresses several vulnerabilities that have been identified in the updated U.S. Maritime Advisory, 2024-00X – Worldwide Foreign Adversarial Technological, Physical, and Cyber Influence."

In early 2023, U.S. defence officials said they were worried that Chinese ship-to-shore crane manufacturer Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries (ZPMC) could be used by Beijing as a possible spying tool, leading to more pressure on the administration from Capitol Hill. China said at the time that the concerns were paranoia-driven, CNBC reported.

"ZPMC did not immediately respond to a request for comment."

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