Port cranes GPS signals blocked

Crane manufacturer ZPMC' Changxing Base in Shanghai. Credit: Ines Nastali

In recent years, incidents of GPS tampering have disrupted the flow of commerce within ports around the world by blocking the signals needed for crane operators to locate and move goods.

The Israeli ports of Haifa and Ashdod have experienced disruptions in the operation of cranes and the location of containers during June and July 2019, due to problems with GPS-based systems, according to a senior port official.

According to the official, a month ago, disruptions were experienced in the system installed at the port’s cranes, assisting in unloading ships resulting in the workers having to shift to manual operation of the crane, and delays were caused to the unloading process.

Systems installed at the ports guide the cranes that work through a GPS system that is connected to the port’s main transmitter. In recent years, incidents of GPS tampering have disrupted the flow of commerce. Last year, USD500,000 were allocated to the US Coast Guard to study this problem as with future digitisation of ports, issues of a similar kind might evolve.

“The problem is that when the cranes don’t know where they are, they can’t find containers to pick up, and don’t know where to put the ones they have. Reverting from automated to manual operation is so time consuming that a port is effectively shut down” said one official.

“This interference to the global positioning system (GPS) reception does not appear to be specifically directed at Israel,” Todd Humphreys, a professor at the University of Texas, USA, told SAS this past week. Humphreys, who has been doing research in the field of GPS interference for years, theorised that this was the by-product of Russian activity.

“The Jewish state is likely collateral damage in an effort by Moscow both to protect its troops from drone attacks and to assert its dominance in the field of electronic warfare.” Zohar Rom, spokesperson for Haifa port, told SAS that the problem has been overcome by the use of sensors that override the GPS system in the cranes and as a result, no further interferences have taken place.

This story originally appeared on sister site dredgingandports.com