WTW launches forum to mitigate growing risks at ports and terminals

Global insurance broker Willis Towers Watson has launched a dedicated risk forum for ports and terminal operators.

Modelled after its Airport Risk Community (ARC), the forum acts as a members’ network, designed to identify risks and the most effective responses in the market. It is collaborating with the Centre for Risk Studies at the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School, a long-term Willis Research Network partner, to develop a continuously updated index of risks to the ports and terminals sector. The Index itself will be launched next year.

The forum provides an events-based networking group through which knowledge and expertise can be shared “to create a stronger and more resilient industry”, WTW said.

Ben Abraham, CEO, Global Marine, Willis Towers Watson, said that the transition to new technologies and digitally enabled systems, addressing the impact of climate change, defending against cyberattacks and shifting geopolitics would combine with traditional supply chain and operational risks to change the face of the sector.

As competition for prime land near consumer markets intensified, the emphasis for operators was increasingly shifting from expansion to improving operational efficiency on the existing waterfront.

According to Deloitte, with less suitable land available for expansion, container ports would transition to investment strategies that increase the productivity of existing spaces, support operational sustainability (in response to regulatory and social demand for lower carbon footprints) and increase collaboration between ports.

This, said Abraham, implied an accelerated adoption of the kind of ‘smart’ technologies that would help operators better understand the operational impact of past events and better predict the impact of future ones.

“The adoption of new ‘smart’ technology will be a primary facilitator of the transition to a more productive future, but these solutions will not come without adding risks: every device that connects to a port’s digital community represents a new entry point for the ill-intentioned into mission-critical operating systems”, said Abraham, noting that recent reports seemed to indicate that cybercriminals – particularly those using ransomware – had discovered how important the maritime supply chain was, both strategically and economically.

“Simply put, the criminal element is increasingly recognizing that attacks against critical supply chain infrastructure such as ports and terminals are more likely to result in ransoms being paid, because those operations are vital to the health of global and local economies”, said Abraham.

He said that, as port operators’ connectivity expanded in pursuit of better productivity, their stakeholders, including financiers, were going to insist on seeing evidence that cyber risks were added to the growing list of business threats that had been identified and were being addressed.