Technology – A true maritime enabler or a risk?
History teaches that during critical periods, humanity always finds ways to innovate, develop, improve, and hence evolve! Necessity tends to always be the mother of inventions. The most recent cases of some huge corporations such as Airbnb, WhatsApp, Instagram, who have been created by ingenious entrepreneurs as a result of the financial crisis in 2008, is a striking example.
Present days are of no exception. The pandemic, the climate change, terrorism, the constant change of the regulatory framework are some of the many challenges that have induced the maritime industry to innovate and evolve.
Today’s maritime operations have become impossible without technological leverage. Modern best practices incorporate technology by re-engineering processes and operations.
Information systems have not only increased ship reliability and hence brought ship owners to a different level of control of their vessels, but also give voice to fleet data by bringing out the best performance of fleet through the convertion of valuable data into actionable output.
In September 2016, for example, MSC Ship management invested in a range of retrofit solutions to reduce the energy consumption and air emissions of its fleet, totaling more than 160 containerships. The technological platform allows MSC to manage the retrofit actions based on real payback evaluation, thus ensuring compliance with emission recording requirements.
Similarly, in October 2017, Premuda has implemented a system to effectively plan and report maintenance. Users of the 8 bulk and 3 tankers of the fleet and the shore staff can now access information on plants, spare parts and the history of the works carried out. Premuda, which is in line with the European Union’s 2015/757 legislation on carbon dioxide emissions (MRV), monitors and collects data for reporting CO2 emissions thanks to the installation of information systems and business transformation.
However, the implementation of technological solutions is not a burden-free process since it incorporates some inherent challenges. The more the dependency on technology, the more the risks and threats, varying from downtime and unavailability of services to cyber-attacks and even the endanger of human lives. People, information, assets and technology are becoming more and more vulnerable in the absence of preventing, corrective and monitoring measures. Along with the growing reliance on automation, other factors such as disruption of critical systems or external interference is greatly exacerbated; interference with the operation of the ship or navigation systems, cutting off all external communications of the vessel, or obtaining confidential data are all possible by hackers nowadays.
Shipping giant Maersk, has been hit but such a cyber-attack, called Notbetya in June 2017, that could allegedly cost them up to $300M. The attack has stood Maersk container ships still in 76 ports around the globe. It was not until the company deployed firewalls on the ships rapidly to prevent the malware expanding in the network that marine operations were enabled to continue unaffected.
In some identical situations, French CMA CGM has been hit by ramsonware attack in 2017, Mediterranean Shipping company has been hit by an unnamed malware strain that brought down their data center for days in 2020 and COSCO has suffered unavailability of services for weeks due to a ransomware in 2018. By September 2020 all four of the world’s largest shipping companies have been hit by cyber-attacks!
Lessons learned are that information / cyber security is not a one-off solution but rather a holistic, continuous approach and methodology. Shipping companies should not only take measures to prevent cyber-attacks but approach the challenge as a continuous never-ending process. Updated tools, end-to-end simulation of attacks, immediate visibility coupled with corrective actions, should be on the priority list of services for shipping companies should they want to take advantage of the full potentials that their ICT Systems offer.
We at Viribus Management Services have acknowledged the challenges modern shipping companies face and have partnered with the best!
The InfoShip information system is a true enabler for all shipping companies that truly want to manage their assets, improve their quality, digitalize their processes and be ahead of everyone else through planning. Spectrum information security services complements the above InfoShip functionality, by safeguarding as a “round the clock” service, ship information and communication systems.
The only thing constant in this world is change and hence it is of paramount importance for shipping companies to keep reinventing and improving themselves. There are times that a situation my seem uncontrollable, but with the kind of versatility and skillsets through the proper technology, tools and services the maritime industry is more than capable to sail through without even a scratch on the surface. Nothing is impossible; impossible is nothing!