Allianz recently published the 2017 edition of its Safety and Shipping Review, the company’s annual overview of trends and developments in shipping safety, highlighting the benefits accruing from modern technologies while also warning of potential risks through overreliance on information technology (IT) and the growing threat of cyberattacks. The annual report commented that shipping losses are on a decline but a “perfect storm” of regulation, cost savings and cybersecurity looms.
Technology drives safety improvements but overreliance presents risk challenges, including those related to cybersecurity. Ships, ports and maritime support activities continue to adopt digital systems to handle commercial, cargo and personal information, and even control the ships or port facilities themselves. The more we digitize, the more interesting the systems become to hackers and the more significant the potential impact could be when they do attack. This can result in a serious maritime event, such as a collision, property damage, or injuries.
Of course, not all things are the same. Older vessels usually have much less digital technology than those currently leaving the shipyards. We will eventually see autonomous vessels in the next decade or two. The increasing reliance on technology and automation will significantly alter the risk profile of the maritime sector, the report noted. Yet there is concern about the current pace of IT development and cyber security standards in the maritime industry.
“A changing geopolitical scenario can transpose cyber risk into a real threat,” adds Captain Nitin Chopra, an Allianz Senior Marine Risk Consultant. “The threat perception towards this intangible must change. For many, cyberattacks are largely regarded as onshore affairs. And compared with the retail, healthcare and banking sectors there have been relatively few public examples of shipping incidents to date, although their number has been increasing in recent years.”
Some progress has been made in the last year. In 2016, Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO) released its cybersecurity advice for ship owners: The Guidelines on Cyber Security Onboard Ships. Supported by other shipping organizations, the guidelines help ship-owners assess and manage cyber risks, as well as develop response and recovery plans. Also last year, the IMO approved its interim guidelines on maritime cyber risk management. The IMO is currently meeting to discuss this topic. Class societies are also developing cybersecurity notations, and guidelines have also been on the radar for the U.S. Coast Guard.
Cybersecurity should not be neglected at a time when crew, training and maintenance budgets are already under pressure. Standard practices and regulations are a must but investments in assessments, training, technology should be implemented to reduce cyber risk.
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