Maastoren Rotterdam

Excellent maritime cyber security in the Rotterdam maritime cluster

In additon to the interview with Erik Witjens the RMSC was also asked by Rotterdam Maritime Capital of Europe to reflect on how business is changing for companies in the Rotterdam region’s maritime business services sector and how can they anticipate these changes. In this article RMSC members W.T. Group, Threatspan and Anchor Insurance share their perspectives.

Cyber security is a top priority in Rotterdam

The maritime industry’s safety and security is becoming increasingly important, as digital solutions and infrastructure represent the critical backbone of doing business during these challenging times. Safeguarding the port and its people, as well as securing the handling of ships and cargo, must always be guaranteed. The Port of Rotterdam’s Harbour Master is therefore also the Port Cyber Resilience Officer.

Every new market sector has first movers who invent new technology. However, new vulnerabilities are often found once this technology starts becoming more widely accepted and available. In addition, best practices for defence are simultaneously evolving too, which are slowly adopted by the industry. The final step is the introduction of the regulatory and compliance framework.

The maritime industry is now working flat out at implementing cyber security technology both on board our vessels and on shore. New threat vectors will constantly be exposed and exploited by cyber attackers as firms continue to undergo digital transformation. One of the biggest threats is the growing gap between the aging infrastructure on board vessels and the ultra-modern technology being developed.

Proximity is key

The proximity of shipowners, shipbuilders and other maritime business services has made Rotterdam attractive to maritime cyber security specialists. It creates opportunities for collaborations throughout the industry.

Cyber experts from companies like DNV-GL, the W.T. Group and Threatspan, who also have offices in the Rotterdam region, enjoy close working relationships with shipowners and operators. This includes training, assessments and audits, but also with their own back-up and recovery experts, or systems and solutions, making sure the cybersecurity controls are continuously robust and compliant.

Leon Yen from Threatspan states: “Threatspan participated in the PortXL accelerator programme in 2018, because of the attractiveness of the complete maritime cluster.” They subsequently expanded their business and decided to stay.

Cyber security is a safety issue. For example, when considering vulnerabilities in ECDIS and in the positioning systems which are of particular interest where shipping is concerned.

Maarten van der Hoek, co-founder of W.T. Group explains: “The W.T. Privacy label was launched last year, following the W.T. Group’s foundation almost 25 year ago by people with a maritime background. This was an initiative resulting from the gap between the aging infrastructure on board vessels and modern technology being developed. Risks are constantly increasing as a result of the growing dependency on network connectivity and communication, as it becomes critical infrastructure.

These days, most businesses prefer, or even need, to enable remote working in offices all over the world, on board ships, in hotels and home offices, in order to keep a competitive advantage. This requires more interaction between all actors in the sector.

As the maritime industry operates 24/7, W.T. Privacy can assist and consult charterers, forwarders, boarding clerks and shipowners, to help them work safely and securely. This involves protecting data and continuously scanning all types of vulnerabilities and possible threats, thereby increasing the cluster’s competitive advantage.

The same is true for insurance companies, extensively present in Rotterdam. As insurance is based on a calculation of possible risks, cyber security is a new factor in the equation. For shipowners and operators, it is important to ensure their ships are safe and seaworthy. Cyber security now also forms part of the clauses and if not organised well, it directly impacts seaworthiness. The Rotterdam region is home to multiple maritime insurers and brokers, represented by the Rotterdam Maritime Services Community. Direct contact is easily organised, which makes doing business very easy, according to Anchor Insurance’s Rogier van der Sluijs.

Issues with new technology in existing businesses require extra communication, in order to understand and clarify the co-insurance market’s supply and demand. This market has proven its worth where complex risks with high capital needs are concerned. Underwriters in markets like these underwrite the risk together and therefore need to join forces. This, in turn, attracts insurance brokers, lawyers and surveyors, who will also benefit from being close to their clients. Recent hacks and extortions have led to new clauses and insurance products, which can only be realised based on a mutual understanding of risk transfers and operations.

Rogier van der Sluijs states: “As insurance is based on mutual trust and understanding of the business, it’s vital to have underwriters close to the risk, in order to increase communication, understanding and – as a result – offer a fair price for moving the risk from a marine company’s balance sheet to that of an insurance company. Even though brokers situated in Rotterdam conduct business in the entire continent, including London, a home market contributes to the service level for all parties.


Rotterdam Maritime Capital - Rotterdam Maritime Services Community - RMSC