Cyber security lab launched for UK shipping industry

The maritime facility has "never been more timely," says University of Plymouth professor

Ship full of containers

The University of Plymouth has created a cyber security research lab that focuses on challenges faced by the shipping industry.

The 3 million 'Cyber-SHIP' lab will complement the university's existing maritime facilities which includes a simulator dedicated to training professional sailors.

The lab is a transformational step towards developing a national centre for research into maritime cyber security, according to Professor Kevin Jones, the executive dean for science and engineering and principal investigator for the project.

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Jones believes that the lab will support a range of research and training that cannot be achieved with simulators alone. These will also facilitate the development and delivery of new maritime cyber provision for graduates, postgraduates, and industry.

"Cyber attacks are a Tier1 National UK threat. But, although the maritime sector is advancing technologically, it is not well protected against cyber or cyber-physical attacks and accidents," he said. 

"Worth trillions, it has an unmatched reach across international waters, which exposes people and goods to a diverse range of factors, putting the shipping industry at high risk. As such, this facility has never been more timely."

The lab has been developed in partnership with shipping equipment manufacturers, port operators, shipbuilders, classification agencies, and insurance companies. Some of the areas it will look at include the cyber risk of autonomous ships, maritime cyber risk assessment, and the scope and impact of evolving tech on international shipping.

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The project, which has been funded by Research England will last for three years with the hope that it will be self-sustaining by then. It aims to bring together a host of connected maritime systems currently found on an actual ship's bridge. Cyber security experts will then assess these systems for vulnerabilities and identify the technology and skillsets needed to make them more secure.

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The lab will feature cutting edge maritime technology including radar equipment, a voyage data recorder, an electronic chart display and information system, an automatic identification system, and communications devices.

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