Follow us: Entypo-facebook Entypo-twitter


From the CSA president, David Jean-Marie

Strengthening maritime cyber security and preparing for the future

Today’s maritime industry, like most other global industries, relies heavily on information technology solutions across virtually all fronts. These solutions require a global interface and networking capabilities through the internet, which expose companies operating in shipping to the risk of serious cyber attacks.

This is by no means a new challenge to the industry. At the start of the current decade, the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines suffered severe financial losses from cyber attacks that took cargo and general shipping information from the line. The attacks damaged data related to rates, loading, cargo number, date and place.

david jean marieBetween 2011 and 2013 hackers demonstrated their ability to pass illicit cargo through ports as well as to intercept containers by accessing logistics software and creating false bills of lading in countries such as the Netherlands and Australia. In 2013 the internet security firm Kaspersky Labs published a report outlining cyber attacks on Japanese and South Korean shipbuilding and maritime assets.

Real and persistent threat

More recent attacks have dominated media headlines across the world, raising the profile of cyber breaches in the maritime industry as a real and persistent threat. The ‘NotPetya’ cyber attack on shipping giant A.P. Moeller-Maersk in June temporarily disabled the company’s shipping and terminal branches, resulting in congestion at some terminals in the United States, India, Spain and the Netherlands. The company believes this disruption could cost in the region of US$ 300 million.

Another highly publicised case involved pirates hacking a shipping company to identify vessels with specific cargo they wanted to steal. There are many other reported and unreported cases of maritime systems being disrupted by malware and ransomware. The industry is now fully waking up to the painful reality that shipping operations are vulnerable to digital attacks.

These attacks can happen to companies of any size. The most vulnerable ones are those that currently run legacy operating systems, fail to update software and disregard the importance of cyber security.

Mounting a strong digital defence

So what must we, across the Caribbean and Latin America, do to protect ourselves against this wave of attacks? The obvious answer is to address, immediately, all vulnerable areas and increase the awareness of staff.

I use this platform to advocate that our members and readers assess their current level of protection and move quickly to address areas of risk. This will allow us to establish an order of priority as we seek to integrate cyber security into our risk management procedures. Training employees on how to prevent and recognize cyber attacks should also go hand in hand with implementing the necessary cyber security policies. These measures will significantly improve defences and ensure an effective response to threats.

The CSA is happy to play its role. We recently held a workshop in Miami, Florida, that was open to regional participants. They were provided with insight into current real-world threats and cyber attacks related directly to the maritime domain. Participants gained knowledge, skills and understanding of available resources to develop and implement a sustainable cyber risk mitigation strategy that will impact their maritime port operations.

Further on the horizon, blockchain technology is poised to offer greater security and efficiency to the shipping industry. Heralded as the next internet revolution, blockchain promises to digitize the supply chain process from end to end while providing unprecedented levels of security. IBM and Maersk have already embarked on building a blockchain solution that is scheduled to come on stream later this year. This is an interesting development that we must monitor closely in the months ahead.

Expanded locks

Another game changer is the expanded Panama Canal, which has reaffirmed its position as one of the world’s most important waterways. Despite the many challenges, it has received a glowing scorecard after recently passing its one-year anniversary milestone.

Activity on the US East Coast, via the canal, has ramped up significantly due to shifts in throughput from Asia previously routed through West Coast ports. Georgia Ports Authority (GPA), which reported an 11 per cent increase in TEU in May and record container volumes in June, has attributed much of its tremendous growth to this route change. GPA’s executive director, Griff Lynch, said the economic outcome had surpassed all expectations.

This raises major questions for Caribbean hub ports and other key players who wish to bolster their development and prosperity with logistics business emanating from increased traffic through the canal. There were many obstacles that prevented us from securing first-mover advantage, but I’m convinced it’s not too late for us to get in the game. In order for us to stay relevant in our industry, we must inject greater impetus into our development plans. No longer can we view them as projects for the future – we must act now.

Conference focus

The CSA will continue to play its part in addressing the critical issues facing the industry at our 47th Annual General Meeting, Conference and Exhibition in Bridgetown from 9 to 11 October. In addition to a private meeting of the CSA Security Council, there will be a session dedicated to the topic. The curiously titled ‘Modern Face of Maritime Cyber Risk: Donald Duck, Daughters and Dollars’ should prove highly informative, as well as the related IT session ‘Digital Transformation: How Innovation and Platforms Drive Regional Collaboration’.

Maintaining the profitability of the Caribbean maritime sector is always a major area of focus, and this year’s conference will explore the carriers’ projections and predictions for the regional industry in the next five years – a five-year economic outlook spearheaded by Americas Market Intelligence – and improvements to terminal productivity through collaboration. These sessions are highly anticipated against the backdrop of prevailing issues such as overcapacity and the expanded Panama Canal.

Protection of the marine environment will be discussed in the sessions on MARPOL and the Wider Caribbean Special Area and preparing for potential megaship disasters. Other key areas of focus include special economic development zones, flag registration and logistics.

This edition of Caribbean Maritime will be hot off the press at our 47th AGM. I look forward to exchanging ideas with you on these important topics in my own beautiful island, where Barbados Port Inc. and the Shipping Association of Barbados will enjoy the distinction of hosting the conference for the sixth time since 1972. The event promises to be a dynamic forum for networking and outlining a framework for the success of our industry.

David Jean-Marie
Caribbean Shipping Association