Cyber attack hits COSCO Shipping

Lloyd’s Register cyber-enabled COSCO Shipping Aries (above)
Lloyd’s Register cyber-enabled COSCO Shipping Aries (above)

COSCO Shipping’s US operations have been hit by a cyber attack affecting the carrier’s ability to communicate with vessels, customers, and marine terminals.

“Communications are very difficult right now” as a result of the outage, a COSCO executive confirmed to IHS Markit on 24 July.

The official said the company had been able to patch the system so it could temporarily work around the problem and continue safe vessel operations until IT personnel determine the cause of the breach, which he said had not directly affected operations outside the United States.

After a ransomware attack struck Maersk and subsidiary APM Terminals last year – which cost Maersk an estimated USD250–300 million – the US Coast Guard called for more a “unified effort” to better defend against cyber incidents.

Despite the increased attention being paid to cyber security in the maritime sector, however, the size and scope of the threat is still largely unknown, due in part to shipowners’ reluctance to share their experiences, according to BIMCO’s Phil Tinsley, speaking on the issue during London International Shipping Week last year.

Earlier this year, COSCO Shipping began upgrading its fleet with new cyber-security specifications from classification society Lloyd’s Register, beginning with 20,000 teu COSCO Shipping Aries, delivered in January.

The 24 July cyber incident is the latest of several service disruptions affecting COSCO Shipping’s liner operations.

The carrier announced on 6 July that it would be ending its Far East-Pacific Southwest ‘AAC’ service in mid-August owing to a “chaotic environment” caused by rising fuel prices, new environmental regulations, and truck shortages, “while growing uncertainty regarding Sino-US trade friction has added to the complexity of the situation”, according to a company statement.

On 14 July, COSCO Shipping, along with Maersk Line and two other carriers, was suspended by the Nigerian Ports Authority for allegedly contributing to chronic congestion at the ports of Lagos and Tin Can Island. A company issued a statement on 21 July confirming the suspension had been lifted.