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In the Limelight: Threatspan & PortXL

Mitigating risks and dismantling conservatism in the maritime industry

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Recently the Rotterdam Maritime Services Community (RMSC) spoke with member Leon Yen – Founder and CEO of Threatspan – and Philip Roos – Senior Acceleration Manager at PortXL. During the interview the two maritime enthusiasts elaborated on the importance of mitigating cyber risks and how to bridge the gap between established industry players, start-ups and potential clients.

Threatspan is on a mission to help the maritime industry understand risks related with digitalisation and the importance of cyber security. The idea to start the business was conceived after the Maersk ransomware attack in 2017. This incident had a massive impact on terminals operations in four countries and the global logistics chain. Based on this unfortunate event Leon Yen determined that cyber was not on the agenda in the maritime industry. Hence, the foundation for the start-up was cemented.

Landing in Rotterdam

Even though Leon Yen was a United States resident, Rotterdam was selected as the best place to start. Mainly because of its reputation as global centre for maritime innovation. Leon Yen: “Landing in Rotterdam and participating in the PortXL programme was very helpful. Rotterdam differs from other maritime clusters because of its completeness. Operating from here made it possible to accelerate and gain traction.” Currently Threatspan also has offices in the United States (New York city) and Singapore.

Mitigating risks

Threatspan helps clients to prepare and reduce (digital) risks. Leon continues: “Because ships are in essence mobile offices it is reality that onboard IT networks could sail towards unnoticed (cyber) threats. Through ongoing monitoring and risk assessments our solutions alert clients of potential risks such as signs of malware, deficiencies and outdated software.” This helps clients to decide how to mitigate risks and to decide which precautionary actions are needed. This adds to the stability and safety of vessels, logistics, ports and offshore operations.

Dismantling conservatism

Even though digitalisation is a hot topic in most industries there were only a handful competitors in the maritime cyber security market when Threatspan joined the PortXL programme. Being part of the programme helped to gain access to the regional maritime cluster. Phillip Roos: “At PortXL we focus on matchmaking and strengthening the network. We help starting entrepreneurs to understand corporate environments and the other way round. All our efforts are aimed on growing the maritime ecosystem towards the port of the future.” By trying to dismantle conservatism in the industry PortXL activates and nurtures an innovative mindset and ecosystem to strengthen the competitiveness of the regional maritime cluster.

Added value of Rotterdam

According to Leon the RMSC helps to broaden network connections. As well as opening the door to unforeseen opportunities. Especially because the community consists of various complementary services and sectors. Via the RMSC it is easier for newcomers to enter the market and get adopted into the regional network. “We also benefit from the fact that Rotterdam is internationally perceived as the most complete and hands-on maritime innovation capital. Being a Rotterdam based company absolutely strengthens our image and brand value.”