Experts warn of growing maritime cyber-security threats

The global maritime industry is taking steps to tackle cyber-security threats. Finnish technology firm Wartsila has, for example, set up a centre in Singapore to work with industry players. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

The global maritime industry must do more to protect shipping firms against growing cyber-security threats, experts said yesterday at the opening of a maritime innovation centre.

An important first step is to create awareness and encourage the reporting of incidents, said Mr Mark Milford, vice-president in charge of cyber security at Finnish technology firm Wartsila.

"There is a reluctance to report because of (the fear) of reputation damage," he told The Straits Times yesterday, as the firm marked the official opening of its Acceleration Centre in Singapore. The centre contains a cyber-security offshoot.

While there are no official records on the number of cyber-security attacks that have hit the maritime sector, the threat is real, said Mr Andrew Fitzmaurice, chief executive of Templar Executives, a British cyber-security firm that Wartsila is working with in Singapore.

He said: "Most countries now recognise the maritime sector as part of critical national infrastructure and know that unless they start taking this seriously, they risk having their shipping supply lines and other areas compromised."

The opening of the centre in Singapore - the first for Wartsila outside its home base - follows a memorandum of understanding inked with the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) in April.

The partnership aims to promote innovation and collaboration with industry, academia and local partners to strengthen and develop Singapore's maritime ecosystem, the firm said.

Among other projects, MPA and Wartsila plan to collaborate in areas of intelligent vessels, smart port operations and digital acceleration with start-ups.

Dr Lam Pin Min, Senior Minister of State for Transport and Health, who was the chief guest at the centre's launch last evening, said the set-up "will support our aim to be the global maritime hub for connectivity, innovation and talent, and add to the vibrancy of our maritime innovation ecosystem".

He noted that Wartsila and PSA Marine are working together to develop and test an autonomous harbour tug - small boats that guide vessels - as an initiative under the MPA Living Lab.

"Such projects will enable us to develop new concepts and capabilities that support more efficient operation and regulation of our future port," he said.

Singapore is building a mega port in Tuas that will be twice the size of Ang Mo Kio town when fully developed.

The new port, to be opened progressively from 2021, will be able to handle up to 65 million twenty-foot equivalent units of cargo a year when fully completed by 2040.

This is about double what the port handled last year.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2018, with the headline Experts warn of growing maritime cyber-security threats. Subscribe