The Maritime Security Providers Association of Nigeria (MASPAN) has raised the alarm of a new piracy threat on ships called cyber piracy.
In a statement made available to Maritime Today online, MASPAN President, Emmanuel Maiguwa said the first significant cyber piracy was recorded in 2019 on ships sailing to New York, which raised concern about the ability of pirates to control critical functions of the vessel through the web.
He noted that while technologies are critical to shipping, they are, however, making ships vulnerable to cyber-attack by pirates and terrorists.
“Ships have become more advanced in machinery performance monitoring, operations, onboard training, navigation and management. What this means for ships is; Engine/oil temperature, consumption etc, can be monitored and controlled from both onboard and ashore. So are valves, containers, crew training, navigation and chart corrections. Interestingly, vessels’ cargo/container tracking systems give the hacker all the information about the cargo. While these technologies are critical to shipping, they make ships vulnerable to cyber-attack by pirates and terrorists.
“An example would be a ship fully designed to operate on ECDIS, and a group of cyber pirates can gain entrance to update the map and guide the vessel to the desired location for the attack. This means a cyber pirate can move a ship to favourable jurisdiction.
To address this new crime’s challenges, Maiguwa, who is also the President of the Alumni of Maritime Academy of Nigeria Oron (AMANO) recommended that the digitalisation drive for the maritime and port industry should go hand in hand with a robust cyber security education, support and funding.
He also called for a review of legal frameworks wondering if the cyber-pirates will be recognised and punished as pirates under the UNCLOS definition of Piracy. “If so, the definition of pirates in Acts such as SPOMO may have to be revisited,”
He added, “The Maritime Academy of Nigeria and other MTIs may consider cyber-crime in their curriculums.
“The administration, under its shipping development role, may also consider a particular Unit for Maritime cyber security.
“Digitalisation in shipping is the best way forward; we should approach it with all readiness and responsibility.”