Cyber-attacks could cause breakdowns in supply chain breakdowns

Shipping companies and port operators are worried at the potential vulnerability of supply chains to cyber-attack, according to Pascal Matthey, head of global lines for marine risk engineering at XL Catlin

Speaking to Strategic Risk, Matthey warned that the interlinked nature of systems meant that maritime companies faced significant business interruption risks from online attacks.

“The problem is that nobody knows, other than the computer systems, where your goods are,” he said, adding that “you might never find your container again. Refrigerated containers might lose power, which would mean huge damage”.

After last year’s NotPetya attack on Maersk the company had to reinstall 4,000 servers, 45,000 PCs, and 2,500 applications, over nearly two weeks, and at a bottom-line cost approaching half a billion dollars. For a while Maersk had to revert to manual systems – pen and paper, which led to a temporary 20% fall in volume.

Matthey warned that any terrorist cyber-attack could have potentially catastrophic consequences “What happened on 9/11, you could perhaps now do with a ship, by steering a large vessel into an oil or gas terminal, which could have disastrous consequences”, he said.

Along with several reinsurers, XL Catlin is developing blockchain-based applications, with a new blockchain platform for marine insurance contracts at XL Catlin and MS Amlin likely to go live this year. “We take a holistic approach to risk engineering and the whole supply chain,” said Matthey, adding that “it is difficult for a marine insurer, for example, to gain a complete picture of accumulated exposure within a given port at a specific time of day on a certain date …. Blockchain can help solve those accumulation issues”.