The scale of the damage a computer virus can unleash on the technology dependent and inter-connected industry is shown as the global shipping industry is still feeling the effects of a cyber attack that hit A.P. Moller-Maersk two days ago.
With ships and ports acting as the arteries of the global economy, about 90 percent of world trade is transported by sea. Any IT glitches can create major disruptions for complex logistic supply chains because ports increasingly rely on communications systems to keep operations running smoothly.
Among the biggest-ever disruptions to hit global shipping was the cyber attack. And still struggling to revert to normal operations on Thursday after experiencing massive disruptions were several port terminals run by a Maersk division, including in the United States, India, Spain, the Netherlands.
For example, dry cargo could not be delivered and no container would be received, said South Florida Container Terminal. He did not know “when exactly the terminal will be running smoothly”, said Anil Diggikar, chairman of JNPT port, near the Indian commercial hub of Mumbai.
Maersk could not say when normal business operations would be resumed as a number of IT systems were still shut down, the shipping company said.
Given its position as operator of 76 ports via its APM Terminals division and the world’s biggest container shipping line, the impact of the attack on the company has reverberated across the industry.
While dry bulk ships haul commodities including coal and grain and tankers carry vital oil and gas supplies, container ships transport much of the world’s consumer goods and food.
“As Maersk is about 18 percent of all container trade, can you imagine the panic this must be causing in the logistic chain of all those cargo owners all over the world?” said Khalid Hashim, managing director of Precious Shipping, one of Thailand’s largest dry cargo ship owners.
“Right now none of them know where any of their cargoes (or)containers are. And this ‘black hole’ of lack of knowledge will continue till Maersk are able to bring back their systems on line.”
The attack had caused outages at its computer systems across the world, Maersk said.
Dean McGrath, president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 23 said that the unloading of vessels at the group’s Tacoma terminal was severely slowed on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The terminal is a key supply line for the delivery of domestic goods such as milk and groceries and construction materials to Anchorage, Alaska.
“They went back to basics and did everything on paper,” McGrath said.
Because the Danish company was regarded as a leader in IT technology, the fact Maersk had been affected rang alarm bells for the whole shipping industry, said Ong Choo Kiat, President of U-Ming Marine Transport, Taiwan’s largest dry bulk ship owner.
“But they ended up one of the first few casualties. I therefore conclude that shipping is lacking behind the other industry in term of cyber security,” he said.
“How long would it takes to catch up? I don’t know. But recently all owners and operators are definitely more aware of the risk of cyber security and beginning to pay more attention to it.”
(Adapted from Reuters)