The use of sensors and software-driven systems on board ships will enable greater transparency and efficiency, but they also come with new challenges, said Tor E. Svensen, DNV GL Group Executive Vice President, at the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) conference in Berlin this week.
“A greater focus on cyber security is essential to combat the risk of criminals exploiting already existing vulnerabilities,” he pointed out.
Programmable connected components, whether machinery, navigation or communication systems, were violable to potential cyber-attack. But more than that the risk of incidents caused by software-related issues due to simple error, malfunction or breakdown meant that ensuring total system integrity was a critical safety issue, he said.
The “connected ship”, or a vessel with many software-dependent systems, an online presence and high levels of automation, was arriving much more quickly than anticipated, Svensen noted. As a classification society, DNV GL advocated a risk-based approach to reduce cyber threats, with a tiered approach of third-party assessments, audits, testing and verification.
Meanwhile, navigational errors still account for too many shipping accidents, he said: “It is worrying to see that despite all the modern equipment on board, human error is on the rise and is now responsible for over 50 per cent of all claims.”
In this context, industry stakeholders needed to work closer together; sharing information on accidents in order to learn and to progress, Svensen said. Finally, he noted that even though the long term trend was positive, shipping was still lagging behind land based industries.
Some 700 maritime stakeholders, including representatives from the insurance industry, shipowners, salvors and classification societies, attended the three day meeting.