There is a constant push to fully automate the shipping industry.  From fully robotic ports to unmanned ships.  The question remains, if the industry is really ready for the extreme shift.    

Our colleagues at Lloyd’s List is cautioning the transportation industry to, “brace yourselves for another round of digital buzzword bingo.”  Singapore is again hosting a maritime conference and “smart” shipping will be priority topic.  The 2018 Singapore maritime conference produced digital “evangelists” preaching the transformational power of technology in the shipping industry.  But many believe they did not provide a substantial level of details to back up all their, “good news.”  Cyber researchers will now be poised to test those “smart” claims.[1]

Even though shipping skeptics abound, technology remains a key factor of the future of maritime commerce.  The debate will continue with old and new shipping experts blending ideas toward a new future.  According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), over 90 percent of the world’s trade is carried by sea.  The reality of shipping is that it is experiencing the drag of slow growth hampered by great operational complexities, close competition, evolving geo-political cross-border challenges and small profit margins.  A look toward technology can and will help these issues, especially in smaller ports who can more quickly turn around commodities. 

Figure 1. Pelindo II port facility

An example of a smaller port is the Indonesia Port Corporation’s (IPC) Pelindo II.  This port has been using “smart” technology for a few years.  The Indonesian state-owned port enterprise has been undergoing vast transformation in recent years with ongoing improvements by way of hard and soft infrastructure, to include their Terminal Operating System (TOS).[2]  Pelindo II initiated new equipment, connected information and communications technologies and followed up with highly trained personnel.  They then achieved sizeable growth in container traffic and raised their revenue in a very short period of time.

With technology comes the ever-present risks of cyber-attacks, just ask Maersk.  In 2017, Maersk computers began showing messages of: “repairing file system on C:” followed by a warning not to turn off the computer. Others monitors dispalyed a more bizzare message which read, “oops, your important files are encrypted” and demanded a payment of $300 worth of Bitcoin to decrypt them.  The screens then went black.  NotPetya ransomware struck this shipping giant.[3]  Like the old days, ports and operations were forced to continue procedures with paper and runners.   NotPetya cost Maersk between $250 million and $300 million, with residual losses to companies using Maersk to ship their goods.  Smart technology is always vulnerable to cyber attacks; be it from inside or outside risks. 

Wapack Labs has previously written about “smart” ports, both in Singapore and Europe.  This is a trend that will continue as technology will continue to force evolution within the shipping sector.  The successful merging of transportation technologies that focus on efficiency, reliability and positive profit margins (stressing cyber security concerns), will be the keys to a true “smart” industry.  Wapack Labs offer a variety of cyber security tools to help your organization with looking to the future.  RedXray is one such tool that can provide a quick and reliable check on shipper’s cyber concerns.

Wapack Labs is located in New Boston, NH.  We are a Cyber Threat Analysis and Intelligence organization. For questions or comments regarding this report, please contact the lab directly by at 1-844-492-7225, or        




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