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Role cyber security in ship safety highlighted by IMO

Photo: Safety@Sea webinar imosafety.PNG
The management of cyber security has been highlighted as a key aspect of safety by the IMO as technology becomes essential in ship operations.

“There is a strong need to balance the benefits of new technologies with safety and security concerns, in particular cyber-security, Heike Deggim, director of maritime safety at the IMO, told the International Safety@Sea webinar series organised by the Maritime & Port Authority of Singapore (MPA).

“Many people tend to have a very outdated view of what modern shipping looks like. Modern ships are technologically advanced workplaces and IMO plays an important part in shaping those developments,” she said.

The transformation towards smart shipping means that technology permeates many aspects of ship operations.

“Cyber technologies have become essential to the operation and management of numerous systems critical to the safety and security of shipping and protection of the marine environment, including bridge systems, cargo handling and managements systems, propulsion and machinery management systems, power control systems and administrative and crew welfare systems,” Deggim said.

She said that one of the most critical developments in smart shipping and rapidly gaining importance is cyber security. “Recognising the use of electronic technologies is continually increasing in many areas of shipping.”

With the process of digitalisation accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic cyber attacks have become more common not just in shipping, but globally in 2020, and indeed the IMO itself was hit by a cyber security incident.

Dekkim detailed how cyber risks will have to addressed in a vessel’s safety management system from the annual verification of its Document of Compliance from 1 January 2021.

“Considering the human element aspect is vital in this regard, while systems can be protected and recovered by implementing different IT technologies it is important human understand the risks associated with the use and operation of critical systems,” she told the webinar.

“Thus implementing good cyber discipline within an organization is critical in good cyber risk management as much in shipping as anywhere else.”