What the IAPH cyber guidance for ports means for shipping

Operations in the container transhipment hub in Manzanillo International Terminal. Credit: Manzanillo International Terminal

The World Ports Sustainability Program (WPSP), part of the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH), has published a Port Community Cyber Security White Paper, which serves as guide to ports gearing up to digitise their business in the wake of COVID-19 

With ports being the intersection between shipside and shoreside, the association sees itself best positioned to add to the existing cyber guidance landscape. It also acknowledges that a lot of ports rely on staff interaction, which has made operations harder for crew and land-side staff during the pandemic. 

“While some port communities seized the opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution and developed into full-fledged smart ports, many others have barely grasped the essentials of digitalisation and continued to struggle with larger reliance on personal interaction and paper-based transactions as the norms for shipboard, ship-to-shore interface, and shore-to-hinterland-based exchanges,” said IAPH managing director Patrick Verhoeven in the white paper’s foreword. “Increased digitalisation of port communities means ports will need to pay increased attention to cyber-security risks.”   

The 15-page white paper has been put together by IAPH in association with the International Cargo Handling Coordination Association and TT Club, with the idea for it originally emerging from a meeting between the contributors at the TT Club offices in London during the 2019 edition of London International Shipping Week.   

It is the product of a collaborative effort between port and cyber-security experts, collectively offering many decades of experience both inside and outside the maritime industry.  

Each chapter in the paper explores a different dimension of the cyber conundrum, with practical recommendations, advice, and examples. These include: 

  • Why cyber security is such a vital issue for port communities looking at trade, regulatory, geopolitical, and defence dimensions 
  • The importance of speaking the same language around cyber security 
  • What is commonly missing in port community cyber security and practical suggestions on steps to increase cyber resilience 
  • The essential building blocks for a cyber resilient port community 
  • Current cyber-security provisions in the IMO rules and the potential evolution of the port facility security officer role for the future 

Verhoeven summarised the IAPH’s COVID-19 efforts, “We sincerely hope that this practical, pragmatic approach towards assisting our membership and the world’s ports communities overall will help us overcome the challenges all of us face in the post-COVID-19 era. Digitalisation will be key to future port safety and efficiency.”