Australia: Seaworthiness redefined in the new age? Interim guidelines on maritime cyber risk management


Interim guidelines for addressing cyber related risks in the shipping industry have been approved by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). Published as Circular MSC.1/Cir.1526, the interim guidelines are aimed at addressing current and emerging cyber risks in the maritime industry. Approved in June 2016, the guidelines will be discussed further at the Maritime Safety Committee in November 2016.

A maritime cyber risk refers to the degree to which a "potential technology asset" can be threatened or interfered with, which could lead to shipping-related operations, security or safety systems failing as a consequence of the information or systems being corrupted, lost or compromised.

The guidelines have been developed in response to the massive rise in systems and equipment that can be accessed via the internet, Bluetooth or other open networks. The so-called "internet of things", which allows devices to communicate with each other using embedded sensors that are linked through wired and wireless networks and can be controlled in real time, is a powerful tool for maintenance management and safety but has created a door through which any person can access those systems. The guidelines list a number of vulnerable systems which include bridge systems, cargo handling and management systems, propulsion and machinery management and power control systems, and communication systems, to name a few.

What is envisaged by the guidelines in developing resistance to the deliberate or accidental hacking of operating systems for economic, political or malicious motives?

Though ten years ago it may have seemed far-fetched, one can easily imagine any number of scenarios in the near future where terrorist organisations seize navigational control of a ship, endangering crew and passengers, threatening large-scale environmental harm, and risking damage to cargo. With wreck removal operations becoming increasingly complex and costly, the economic harm of a cyber-crime initiated incident could be considerable.

A leading P& I Club has commented that "viewing cyber security as simply an Information Technology (IT) issue is parallel to considering safe operation of a vessel as simply a main engine issue. Addressing cyber security should start with the senior management level of a company rather than being delegated to the Vessel Security Officer or the head of the IT department."

The primary aim of the guidelines is to encourage all organisations operating in the shipping industry to apply the same vigilance to safety and security management practices in the cyber domain as for physical risks.

What is "cyber risk management", and what are the consequences of a shipping organisation not managing its risks properly?

Under the guidelines, ship owners and operators are required to identify, manage and avoid cyber risks. The guidelines define cyber risk management as being "the process of identifying, analysing, assessing and communicating a cyber-related risk and accepting, avoiding, transferring, or mitigating (that risk) to an acceptable level (after) considering the costs and benefits of actions taken to stakeholders".

Cyber risk management should be considered a part of operational risks and evolve "as a natural extension of existing safety and security management practices".

The maritime industry already has instruments which could be used to implement and develop proper cyber risk management.

The International Ship Management Code (the ISM Code) sets out maritime safety management standards for ship owners and operators, the objective of which is to ensure safety at sea and prevent the loss of life or damage to the environment by way of a safety management regime. The International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code, a risk management system to enhance port and ship security, focuses on physical security and does not cover cyber risk management. It must be a matter of urgency for the IMO now to turn their attention to update the ISPS Code to deal with this risk.

With the advent of modern day cyber security risks, which can have a direct impact on ship navigation and cargo handling operations, there can be no doubt that the safety management systems envisaged by the ISM and ISPS Codes must incorporate proper cyber risk management.

The Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO) has developed The Guidelines in Cyber Security on-board Ships (February 2016) which all ship owners and ship operators should consider.

How will a failure to exercise good cyber security affect an owner and its ships?

The shipowner's duty to provide a seaworthy ship is well-known. In terms of Article 3(1) of the Hague-Visby Rules the carrier must, before and at the beginning of the voyage, exercise due diligence to make the ship seaworthy to properly man, equip and supply the ship, and to make the ship cargo worthy.

A shipowner's risk management system should now include some level of cyber risk management. Such efforts need not be too sophisticated but some steps to harden the IT systems ashore and afloat would probably be expected now, given the increasing risk posed to IT in all walks of life, including increasingly, shipping. A complete failure to do so could possibly be a breach of the carrier's obligation to exercise due diligence to make the ship seaworthy and cargoworthy. If, for example, the bridge system, or cargo handling systems were corrupted, lost or compromised due to a cyber risk materialising, and this failure lead to cargo being damaged, the cargo interest would be in a position to argue that the ship was not cargoworthy in terms of the Hague-Visby Rules as measured against modern requirements. This is one of the many aspects which need to be considered in today's commercial environment where cyber risk management is now a reality for the shipping industry. In addition to the catastrophic consequences suggested above, there are potential liability risks arising from the loss of customers' data. There are also regulatory risks which may result from data breaches leading to regulators imposing fines or sanctions, and the reputational damage associated with a cyber attack.

Managing the risk

Shipping organisations must appreciate that cyber risk management extends beyond what is dealt with in the new IMO guidelines. There is a wealth of guidance provided to the industry and many experts whose services can be engaged to assist with the technicalities. It is essential that a shipping organisation gets proper advice on policies and procedures, systems, controls and frameworks for data protection and installs systems in order to prevent cyber incidents and to develop risk avoidance strategies. This is not to say, as some suggest, that this is the greatest threat facing shipowners right now. The current economic climate is a much bigger threat and there are no current examples in shipping of a party trying to take control of systems through cyber-crime or hacking – the most serious IT incidents have been caused by the inadvertent introduction of a cyber virus by ill-trained crew. However, equally, it is no longer acceptable for operators to sit on their hands and ignore this new threat to their operations. The threat is growing and all stakeholders will increasingly require, often through contractual clauses, their counterparts to take reasonable steps to negotiate this risk through sensible risk management.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions