Biden’s Executive Order Strengthens Maritime Cybersecurity

Measures Target Port Infrastructure and Foreign Crane Manufacturing

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President Biden has issued an executive order aimed at addressing the “growing cyber threats” facing the country, focusing on bolstering security in U.S. port infrastructure and coastal areas.

The executive order establishes a series of amendments to Part 6 of Title 33 of the Code of Federal Regulations, intended to provide an updated regulatory framework to address the danger of cyber attacks in the maritime domain. Key provisions include:

  • Designation of Port Captains with the authority to direct law enforcement activities of the Coast Guard and take immediate action to safeguard the security of vessels and port facilities against potential cyber threats.
  • Creation of defined security zones to protect territorial waters, ports, and critical infrastructure from potential harm or interference caused by malicious cyber activities.
  • Clear definition of key terms such as “damage” and “cyber incident,” providing a solid conceptual framework for the identification and management of threats in the digital environment.

Furthermore, the executive order promotes coordination among different government agencies, such as the Department of Justice and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, to ensure consistent and effective enforcement of the updated regulations.

President Biden underscored the critical importance of addressing cyber threats at a time when U.S. maritime and port infrastructure is increasingly vulnerable to persistent digital attacks.

Heightened Concerns

Meanwhile, the South China Morning Post reported that the U.S. government plans to allocate over US$20 billion over the next five years to enhance the country’s port infrastructure, including initiatives for the manufacturing of American cranes domestically.

There is concern among U.S. authorities about the possibility of China using its cranes to interfere with the flow of goods, as well as the potential collection of data on U.S. military shipments.

Last year, several lawmakers sent letters to the Secretary of Homeland Security expressing concern about the risks associated with cranes manufactured by Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries (ZPMC), a Chinese state-owned enterprise that supplies most of the ship-to-shore cranes in the United States.

According to the letter, risks include potential cyberattacks, espionage, and vulnerabilities in the supply chain due to shared software and interconnectivity among ZPMC cranes operating in U.S. ports.

AAPA to Analyze Government Actions

Meanwhile, in an internal statement, the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) committed to analyzing government actions, providing a public response, and offering analysis to its members. However, in its preliminary response, it noted that “there are already robust security measures” in place, insisting that cranes part of American port infrastructure are inspected en route or upon arrival by federal authorities.

The association also indicated that while it is unclear if new funds will be allocated to incentivize American manufacturing, the Wall Street Journal reported that PACECO Corp., a subsidiary of Mitsui E&S Co., Ltd of Japan, is planning to manufacture cranes in the United States.

“The AAPA is engaging with Congress and Federal Agencies to advocate for more incentives to bring crane manufacturing back to America. We are also already in contact with Congress and the Biden Administration on all aspects of port security,” the statement reads.

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