Training Tips for Ships

Tip #57: Cybersecurity in Maritime Operations and Training

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Technical advancement and the digitalization of vessels and maritime operations have enabled new levels of oversight, efficiency, connectivity, and safety. However, this technical evolution (some would say “revolution”) has also exposed us to a wide variety of cybersecurity threats, making cyber risk management a seriously important concern for maritime workers and vessel operators. If you are not concerned, you should be. We all see large data breaches and cyber incidents in the news each day. It can happen to any organization and any individual. In our industry the increasing number of cyber attacks not only jeopardizes the safety and security of our people and infrastructure, but also poses threats to the global supply chain and the environment. It is important for maritime professionals to understand the reality of these threats and for vessel operators to adapt their training programs to better prepare their officers and crews for the digital challenges ahead. So - what is this threat?

In our industry, we now rely on integrated technologies and automation for all business functions, navigation, cargo management, and communication systems. These and nearly all other technologies are potential targets for attack. Cyber attacks can lead to the loss of company data, breaches of personal and other sensitive information, the loss of the computer systems we rely on daily, and even the hijacking of ship control systems. Moreover, the interconnectedness of maritime operations means that a cyber breach in one area can have cascading effects across the company or even the entire industry, leading to economic disruptions and environmental hazards. Fortunately, there is a lot we can do to mitigate these risks.

The most effective and (fortunately) easy to implement counteroffensive to these risks is training and awareness. This is because a huge proportion of these attacks are attributable to human error. In fact, according to Cybint Solutions, 95% of breaches are caused by human error. And since most people do not currently consider cyber security in their daily activities, a little education goes a long way. So how can we train for this?

First, because at-risk technical systems are used broadly in the day-to-day activities of mariners, the best way to approach cyber security education is not only through a dedicated cybersecurity risks course, but also as an integrated topic throughout your company’s broader safety and operational training programs. This approach ensures that maritime workers understand the interconnection between cybersecurity and physical safety, emphasizing that cyber threats are as real and dangerous as traditional maritime hazards.

Second, it can be very useful to use simulations and real-world scenarios in training to help crew members recognize and respond to cyber threats effectively. These simulations should cover a range of potential cyber incidents, from data breaches to the takeover of ship control systems, providing crews with the skills to identify and mitigate these threats.

In terms of building your training programs and generally understanding cyberthreats as they apply to your operations, it is useful to engage in partnerships with other industry players, cybersecurity experts, and government agencies. There are many expert consultants available who offer their services. These collaborations can provide access to shared resources, intelligence about new threats, and best practices for cybersecurity in maritime operations.

Cyber threats are an unfortunate reality for all industries these days, and the maritime industry is no exception. However, by taking a proactive approach and adapting our training programs, we ensure that our crews are not only skilled in traditional maritime operations but are also prepared to meet these new technological challenges.

Thanks so much for reading. Until next time, sail safely!

About the Author

Murray Goldberg is CEO of Marine Learning Systems. Email:

March 2024
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