The Government of the UK has unveiled a new code of practice to help the shipping industry handle the growing number of cyber threats that could lead to various criminal activities such as kidnap, piracy, fraud, theft of cargo and sensitive data, or imposition of ransomware.

The newly released ‘Cyber Security code of practice for ships’ is expected to be followed by ship operators, shipowners and crew members throughout the country.

The practice code is designed to help the shipping businesses to develop an assessment of possible cyber security threats and a comprehensive plan to deal with such issues.

Companies will be able to use the code to create the most appropriate mitigation measures and will be assured access to the correct structures, roles, responsibilities and processes to deal with cyber threats.

Businesses will also be able to manage security breaches and incidents using the guidance.

The new practice code features a number of major national and international standards and regulations that should be reviewed and followed by shipping industry members.

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UK Transport Minister Lord Callanan said: “Anything that threatens the reliability and performance of a shipping sector that carries 95% of our trade has to be taken seriously.

“In some areas, maritime continues to rely on legacy systems using old software and aging operational technology.

"Anything that threatens the reliability and performance of a shipping sector that carries 95% of our trade has to be taken seriously."

“There is also growing dependence on information systems with the development of new technologies such as autonomous or partially-autonomous vessels.

"This has the potential to make the industry more vulnerable to cyber attacks.”

The Department for Transport has commissioned the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) to prepare the code of practice.

The code is expected to complement the ongoing work of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to increase awareness of cyber threats and vulnerabilities.

Image: UK Transport Minister Lord Callanan. Photo: courtesy of Crown copyright.