Why Global Shipping Needs to Improve Security

Believe it or not, the high seas are still among the world’s least regulated and governed spaces — a hotbed for black market business, crime, and other unsavory practices. Though over 90 percent of the world’s trade is transported by sea, the prevailing attitude in the maritime world, in terms of security, is surprisingly lax. Because isolated ships crossing open water go largely unobserved, knowing what goes on between ports presents a real challenge.

The global security landscape in 2016 is rife with danger, so it’s especially important for every industry to evaluate and update its security practices to keep pace with emerging threats. According to the World Economic Forum, “As society becomes more complex and interconnected, it is essentially becoming more vulnerable.”

For an industry like shipping that is already sailing on rough waters, 2016 should be a wakeup call that security at sea (and in the port) needs to improve drastically to match the elevated threat level.

Solid Foundations

There are a lot of high-tech solutions to the problem of shipping security, but there are also plenty of simple steps shippers can take to improve the situation right away. The new Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT), established after the 9/11 attacks, offers some valuable basic guidelines to shippers looking for ways to shore up security at sea and in the port.

Using checklists to repeatedly ensure your ship is secure seems like a no-brainer, but it’s a great start in terms of improving security. Establishing a step-by-step security procedure can help thwart many potential breaches and guarantee the safety of your cargo.

In general, remaining alert and aware of potential security risks can make them considerably less likely to occur. Being prepared for situations like piracy, which has a real economic impact on global shipping, can make a major difference in response. Regular security training for your staff, conducted under guidelines approved by a qualified expert, can help prepare you to protect your cargo against diverse threats.

Stronger Connections

According to the Financial Times, this past January, “540 cargo ships entered European ports after passing through the territorial waters of terrorist hotspots Syria and Libya, as well as Lebanon, for unclear or uneconomic reasons during the course of their voyages.” These ships are largely unmonitored at sea because the vast expanse of the oceans makes oversight logistically impossible.

To combat this, ships are becoming more connected and using new technology to stay in constant contact with monitoring stations on land. By streaming a wealth of sensor information to the cloud, it’s possible for large ships to be monitored around the clock using automated systems manned by trained security personnel.

However, with this new connectivity comes new risks. As ships become increasingly automated, electronic connections with the outside world can create new vulnerabilities. The new technology on ships makes them safer, more efficient, and reliable, but it’s important for shipping companies to engage with new cybersecurity partners in order to ensure any new vulnerabilities are identified and eliminated.

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