Published on 03 Jun 2019

Updated on 08 Oct 2019

CyberSense is a monthly bulletin by CSA that spotlights salient cybersecurity topics, trends and technologies, based on curated articles and commentaries. CSA provides periodic updates to these bulletins when there are new developments.


The maritime industry is responsible for transporting more than 90 per cent of the world’s trade. As technology is introduced to shipboard and port systems, great strides in productivity and fuel efficiency have been achieved. However, awareness of the importance of cybersecurity may still be lagging behind the rapid pace of technology development, the latter of which may allow us to see unmanned cargo ships plying the seas by 2020.


In a 2018 survey of shipping companies, more than a fifth of the respondents have admitted being the victim of a cyber-attack. Cybersecurity guidelines for the industry – such as those released by the International Maritime Organization, a UN agency, and ship owner associations such as the Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO) - are currently provided on a non-mandatory basis. With the American Bureau of Shipping, a classification society, issuing the industry’s first cyber safety class notation, it may prompt more steps to be taken towards improved improving and raising the level of cybersecurity standards in the shipping industry.

A round-the-clock operations centre to guard against maritime cybersecurity threats was officially launched in May 2019. Operated by ST Engineering, the Maritime Cybersecurity Operations Centre aims to strengthen maritime security through early detection, monitoring, analysis and response to potential cyber-attacks. The new centre will share data links with the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore's existing port operations control centre to better respond to cyber incidents.



The shipping industry is increasingly at risk from cybersecurity attacks as ships are increasingly reliant on a range of electronic devices to operate. Jamming or disrupting GPS systems in particular pose significant problems for navigational safety. In April 2016, South Korea said that 280 vessels were forced to return to port after experiencing problems with their navigation systems, and claimed North Korea was behind the disruption.

An exclusion clause for cyber-attacks in many insurance policies means that a large part of the industry is not covered against cyber attacks.

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Rolls-Royce revealed plans for autonomous and remote-controlled cargo ships that can transport goods without needing a single human on board by 2020. According to a white paper published by the company and presented at the 2016 Autonomous Ship Technology Symposium in Amsterdam, multiple ships could be controlled from a shore-based control centre. Without the requirement to house or service crew, autonomous ships would be cheaper to operate and also have more room to hold cargo. On the issue of potential cyber threats, Rolls-Royce’s whitepaper noted that "remote and autonomous ships shall be made at least as safe as existing vessels”.

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In a survey of 350 companies conducted in June 2018 by IHS Fairplay in association with BIMCO, more than a fifth of the respondents said that they have been a victim of a cyber-attack, and only about half of respondents have a business continuity plan in place, should they become a victim of a cyber-security attack. Navigation systems were named as the most vulnerable system, followed by safety and power. Phishing and Malware-like viruses, Trojans and worms were the most common form of incident faced by respondents, mostly leading to service disruption and system downtime.

Founded in 1883, IHS Fairplay is a weekly news publication that focuses on the international merchant shipping industry. Denmark-based BIMCO is the world’s largest international ship owner associations, controlling 56 per cent of the world’s tonnage and with membership in more than 120 countries. BIMCO aims to protect members through provision of quality information and advice, while promoting fair business practices, and facilitating standardisation of commercial shipping practices.

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The American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), a provider of classification and technical services to the marine and offshore industries, has issued its first notation to an unnamed client for the ABS Guide for Cybersecurity Implementation for the Marine and Offshore Industries. The CS1 notation (Asset, Basic-level, Informed Cybersecurity Implementation) is an industry-first, certifying that a vessel has achieved specified standards in the area of cybersecurity risk management.

Classification societies are non-governmental organisations that establish and maintain technical standards internationally for the construction and operation of vessels and offshore structures. They also conduct inspections to ensure that standards are complied with during the construction and operational lifetime of the vessels and structures. Classification societies may award notations to vessels that comply with additional criteria specific to the vessel type or in excess of standard requirements. ABS’ award of this industry-first notation provides ship owners, ship operators and regulators with a means to benchmark a vessel’s cybersecurity posture.

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SOURCES INCLUDE: IHS Fairplay, CNBC, Wired UK and American Bureau of Shipping