Assessing the cyber risks of maritime navigation

You have most certainly heard of it before and have probably had enough of it. The pre-fix “cyber” is ubiquitous. It all began with “Neuromancer” by William Gibson, although it is unlikely that you have read it and it is of little concern to you. However, you will not be able to remain carefree for much longer – unless you have decided to go back in time to rely solely on a wind sail. However, as you have not, you cannot be immune to the cyber risks of navigation.

Together with the traditional navigation risks (the so-called risks of the high seas), nowadays merchants and insurers have to worry about the emergence of a new category of risks that arise from maritime navigation; risks that arise from the increasing dependence on the use of silicon chips in black boxes.

Cyber risks are inherent to the use of computers. It is rare that a boat, to some extent, is not dependent on the omnipresent information technology, which converts a vessel into a potential target vulnerable to cyber attacks.

On the one hand, the attacks could be deliberate – a hacker attempting to take control of the vessel – or, alternatively, merely the result of incompetence – a crew member downloading a virus to the on-board computer by error.

The more sophisticated, specialised and interconnected the boat or its port interface is, the more options there will be for a hacker to gain access. This cyber-pathology can only be further escalated if we consider the foreseeable growth that will occur with autonomous navigation.

Therefore, it is no surprise that BIMCO, INTERCARGO, INTERTANKO, OCIMF, IUMI, CLIA, ICS, DSTL, US coast guard and the IMO have already taken some initiative by issuing guidance and instructions as to how maritime cyber security should be managed.

In light of the above, in this report we propose to:

-Identify the cyber risks of navigation.
-Briefly analyse its coverage in the maritime insurance market.
-Study the impact that cyber security could have on SOLAS, ISPS, PSC, as well as the requirement of seaworthiness of the vessel under charter policies.