The Port of Guam is the U.S. territory's only deepwater port and receives about 90 percent of the island's imports.

The Port of Guam is the U.S. territory's only deepwater port and receives about 90 percent of the island's imports. (Sara Muir/U.S. Coast Guard)

Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero emphasized the island’s growing role in Indo-Pacific defense recently as she lobbied in Washington, D.C., for a share of federal money to replace aging cranes at Guam’s port.

President Joe Biden under an executive order Feb. 21 announced plans to improve cybersecurity at U.S. ports, citing threats to systems that provide ship navigation and cargo tracking. The administration had already apportioned $20 billion alone to upgrade port infrastructure over five years.

The infrastructure initiative targets port cranes manufactured in China for replacement, also due to cybersecurity concerns. Among other measures, the initiative makes funds available to replace Chinese-made cranes in use at U.S. ports with U.S.-built cranes, according to a White House press release Feb. 21.

“Securing these cranes is imperative for our national security,” Guerrero said in a Feb. 23 news release from spokeswoman Krystal Paco-San Agustin. “With the Biden Administration’s heightened concerns, securing funding aligned with U.S. security policies to prevent reliance on China-manufactured equipment is crucial.”

The Port of Guam employs three used gantry cranes more than 40 years old that must be replaced in a few years, Rory J. Respicio, Port Authority of Guam general manager, told Stars and Stripes by email Wednesday.

The cranes were made in Japan by Hitachi in the mid-1980s and relocated to Guam from the Port of Los Angeles, according to documents on the Port of Guam website.

However, components of the cranes, specifically the head blocks and wheel brakes, were made in China and installed during a 2008 refurbishment, Respicio said. The cranes came to Guam in 2012.

Ship-to-shore, or STS, gantry cranes are familiar sights that tower along the docks at commercial ports, where they’re used to load and unload intermodal containers.

The Port of Guam has applied for federal grants and loans and written the specifications for the replacement cranes it needs, Respicio said.

Guerrero used the military buildup on Guam — among them the creation of a new Marine Corps base, bolstering the Coast Guard presence and plans for a ring of air defense missile sites — to make the territory’s case for funding new cranes, according to the Feb. 23 release.

“The Port Authority of Guam is at a pivotal moment, with the acquisition of three new STS gantry cranes critical for sustaining its commercial and military operations,” the release said.

Three cranes can meet the forecasted demand for the Department of Defense buildup, Respicio said.

“But if just one of those cranes goes out of service prior to replacement, it will delay the military buildup by four years and if two of those old cranes go out of service, the Port would not be able to meet commercial demand or the DOD mission,” he said.

In January, the Gantry 6 crane was out of service for nearly two days for repairs, according to Guam’s Pacific Daily News.

“We are pursuing every opportunity for the Department of Defense and the Department of Transportation Maritime Administration to become major benefactors in the Port’s acquisition of new cranes, as well as the replacement of yard equipment, and the rehabilitation of wharves and aging facilities,” Respicio said.

author picture
Jonathan Snyder is a reporter at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan. Most of his career was spent as an aerial combat photojournalist with the 3rd Combat Camera Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. He is also a Syracuse Military Photojournalism Program and Eddie Adams Workshop alumnus.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now