“The future is already here, it just isn’t evenly-distributed,” is how Dr Richard Windischofer, ABB’s vice president, global sales and business development answers the query about the acceptance of remote monitoring of systems and performance in the shipping industry.
By this he means there is now an acceptance among a number of shipowners and operators of the need to co-operate with companies such as his and that co-operation means the need to share, transmit and exchange large quantities of potentially sensitive onboard data. And, what is more, that process is going to become more commonplace.
Dr Windischofer said of this: “If you look at the IMO standards for Condition Based Maintenance, they demand this level of monitoring, so there is no doubt this is simply the way things will be.”
The business case for remote monitoring is well-known. There are benefits in terms of energy consumption, safety, downtime and maintenance costs. Given which, it is inevitable its applications will grow and become ever-more pervasive throughout ship operations.
The downside of this, of course, is that as more and more data is exchanged with onshore operators, so the exposure to the risk of that data falling into the wrong hands becomes greater.
The words ‘Cyber security’ are enough to strike fear into any shipowner or operator – or at least they should be. Speaking at BIMCO’s Annual Conference in Hamburg recently, Captain Alexander Soukhanov from the US Maritime Resource Center (USMRC), commented on recent research carried out by his organisation, saying: “Our initial [research] findings show significant potential for cyber disruption, including malicious takeover of engineering controls, widespread exposure of critical data and systems, and corrupted electronic navigation charts, to name a few.”
It takes little imagination to realise the potential dangers posed by such ‘disruption’.
The danger, of course, is that shipowners regard cyber security as tomorrow’s problem. However, the likelihood is this is because they do not yet understand just how great their current exposure to risk actually is. Because the fact is that ‘Big Data’ is already here and the fact is that cyber security is something shipowners need to be worrying about not tomorrow, but today.