GPS Disruption Halts Ports, Endangers Ships – US Coast Guard

Photo: U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Blog Editor’s Note: In 2014 portions of a mid-Atlantic container port were idled for seven hours by an apparent GPS jamming incident.  Since then the use of jammers has continued to increase, especially by drivers of commercial vehicles that are part of fleet tracking programs. Despite this, we have not heard of any additional instances of port operations being impacted by jamming.

But, then again, ports are unlikely to advertise that they have been jammed, and the Coast Guard has been reluctant to release disruption reports it receives. 

A provision in this year’s Omnibus Appropriations Act that gives the Coast Guard $500,000 to study this problem cites more than one incident and makes us believe that it has not gone away.

“Disruptions to Global Positioning System (GPS) signals can cause severe problems for ship navigation, port security, and situational awareness. In recent years, incidents of GPS tampering have disrupted the flow of commerce within ports by blocking the signals needed for crane operators to locate and move goods. When these signals are blocked, the delays associated with the manual location of containers can all but shut down port operations. Therefore, $500,000 is provided for the Coast Guard to conduct digital forensics research and testing on devices meant to jam or otherwise interfere with GPS signals.”
See page H2555 of the Congressional Record here.