How Maritime Piracy Could Intensify


Occurrences involving piracy and other security threats to commercial shipping have become commonplace in recent years as the use of digital tools used to hack into logistics firms increases.

Furthermore, the global piracy levels witnessed towards the end of 2015 is a possible indication that this magnitude of piracy will continue in 2016.

Guidelines have been implemented by the IMO, which offer definitions on piracy, as well as the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against ships in Asia (RECAAP) for sharing information around piracy, yet the level of piracy attacks have remained consistent.

Technical Paper: Protecting Ships: The Threat of Hackers

In a global sense, ongoing projects such as the Panama Canal Expansion, the newly completed Suez Canal lane, and the planned Nicaragua Canal could create more need for protection and prevention of piracy.

The three canals mentioned above are all vital arteries in the global logistical network and could be easy targets for criminals and terrorists.

Egyptian authorities have made a conscious effort to increase security around the Suez Canal since 2013, especially with regards to the Islamic Militancy, although half-a-mind will also be kept on piracy with such a huge amount of cargo passing through on a daily basis.

Since the majority of piracy attacks occur in Asia, the Panama Canal provides an opportunity for pirates in the Asia-Pacific region who target ships on their way to Central America.

This is a key issue for commercial shipping lines and their customers, who rely on international shipping for the transportation of 80% of global trade by volume, and 70% of trade by value.

Proportionately, this is potentially a huge loss for the global supply chain, and could add to the more than $15 billion lost annually from piracy attacks.

Technical Paper: Size and Security: Defending the Supply Chain

Although this is already a huge loss for global trade, this could be exacerbated further via attempts to hack into shipping systems and using this technology for material gain.

An example of cyber security threats to shipping could be malware, which is a malicious programme designed to affect the workings of a computer.

According to Microsoft, malware can attack computer systems in a number of ways, including spam emails, infected removable hard drives and as a bundle within existing software.

Statistics released by one of the leading providers of anti-virus programmes, McAfee has discovered 30 new versions of malware and other viruses since mid-2015, which highlights the prevalence of these viruses and how shipping lines must be more vigilant in destroying them.

If, as was discovered by PTI in recent news, that pirates can obtain a multi-million payout from one ransom payment, how much is at stake with the breach of thousands of shipping containers, as well as the lives of seafarers at sea?

In summary, there could still be a silver lining for the shipping industry because although maritime piracy has persisted in 2015, the number of incidents has remained consistent.

However, if the above points are not considered, especially with regards to cyber security, maritime pirates may find alternative ways to hack into the assets of commercial shipping, which will have knock on effects not only for the lines but also for the end consumer.

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