In mid-November last year, attendees of BIMCO’s Annual Conference in Hamburg heard the very latest findings on the potential vulnerabilities of ships to cyber attacks. In a session dedicated to the topic, BIMCO and industry experts showed three scenarios showing the possible risks and the methods of prevention for a cyber attack on ships’ systems. The session was designed for corporate management but also focused on the safety of seafarers and ships.

BIMCO delegates heard from Andrew Fitzmaurice, CEO of Templar Executives, and a long-standing thought leader in the global information assurance and cyber security community. Fitzmaurice commented: “The maritime industry, with an increasing reliance on technology and diverse human elements, must be prepared to rigorously protect its business, people, vessels and reputation from a determined and rapidly evolving cyber threat.”

In addition, fellow speaker Captain Alexander Soukhanov from the US Maritime Resource Center (USMRC), commented on recent research carried out by his organization: “Our initial [research] findings show significant potential for cyber disruption, including malicious takeover of engineering controls, widespread exposure of critical data and systems, and corrupted electronic navigation charts, to name a few.”

The conference session followed a decision by BIMCO back in 2013 to engage in the issue of cyber security for ships — with the goal of being able to best inform and give guidance to its members. Since then, BIMCO has focused on the development of guidance that can be used across the global industry.

Soon, BIMCO — alongside other industry associations — will launch guidelines on cyber safety and security to provide clear information and support to the shipping industry on how to avoid being vulnerable to cyber attacks — and so protect their businesses.

BIMCO President, Philippe Louis-Dreyfus said of this development:“Maybe cyber security does not yet get sufficient attention by everyone in our industry — BIMCO is leading on the analysis of information and on producing guidance in this new area. It would be very unlikely to see a widespread cyber attack on shipping because ships across the world use so many different IT systems. Also, because all parties involved — such as shipowners, classification societies, equipment-makers, and so on — will do their ‘homework’.

“Nevertheless, a cyber attack could have serious consequences — not just for your ship but for the reputation of your business. BIMCO is doing its job to increase industry awareness of the risk.”