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Allianz report identifies benefits and risks in shipping IT

Insurance and financial services firm Allianz has published the 2017 edition of its Safety and Shipping Review, the company’s annual overview of trends and developments in shipping safety, highlighting the benefits accruing from modern technologies while also warning of potential risks through over-reliance on IT and the growing threat of cyber-attacks.

{mprestriction ids="1,2"}Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty SE’s (AGCS) analysis notes that technology is already having a positive impact on shipping safety, from the use of electronic navigational tools through to shore-based monitoring of machinery to reduce the frequency of breakdowns.

In particular, technology offers significant potential to reduce the impact of human error on shipping safety, with human error accounting for approximately 75 per cent of the value of almost 15,000 marine liability insurance claims over five years (equivalent to over $1.6 billion).

The development of autonomous vessels would obviously reduce human input and our ability to make these mistakes, though AGCS says that concerns will remain about the potential for collisions between manned and unmanned vessels, and challenges will exist around regulation and liability issues. The availability of sufficient backup if things go wrong is also identified as a critical element in autonomous ship development.

AGCS notes that the use of telematics to enhance operator behaviour, something already successfully deployed in the automotive sector, could have a significant impact on shipping, with a number of insurers currently in the early stages of working with shipowners to utilise Voyage Data Recorder (VDR) analysis to improve safety.

“VDR data is already used in accident investigation, but there are also important lessons to be learned from analysing everyday operations, as well as crew behaviour and decision-making in near-misses,” said Captain Rahul Khanna, head of marine risk consulting at AGCS. 

Decision support and analysis is also important in managing the issue of over-reliance on technology, which AGCS says is a persistent problem that continues to result in incidents, particularly around navigation.

“Crews and officers must understand the shortcomings and limitations of technology,” said Capt Khanna.

“Sometimes replacing common sense decisions with digital inferences is not such a good idea.”

As the use of technology onboard continues to grow, AGCS acknowledges the evolving cyber risk in shipping, noting that the number of incidents that have resulted in loss of critical data, financial loss or IT problems is increasing. As much as 80 per cent of offshore security breaches could be the result of human error, the report suggests.

To date, most attacks identified by AGCS have been aimed at breaching corporate security, rather than taking control of a vessel, but there are concerns that a major cyber-attack of this nature could occur in future.

The company advises that cyber security should not be neglected, even at a time when crew, training and maintenance budgets are already under pressure, and that standard practices, such as crew education and identifying measures to back up and restore systems, should be implemented to reduce cyber risk.{/mprestriction}

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Digital Ship magazine provides the latest information about maritime satellite communications technology, software systems, navigation technology, computer networks, data management and TMSA. It is published ten times a year.


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