Tech Challenges In Singapore, Thailand Shipping Sector

Law Bites – Feb 2022

Although there is wide recognition that the adoption of tech will bring benefits, there are still significant issues that need to be addressed.

Singapore: Maritime cybersecurity

During a webinar at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO)-Singapore Future of Shipping event earlier this year, industry experts partly attributed the slow progress to adopting technology to a “lack of trust” – a mentality that sharing data widely would mean losing an industry edge to competitors.

Also, many in the shipping industry believe that the wholesale adoption of new technology might expose their vulnerabilities to cybercrime. The shipping industry possesses characteristics that make it particularly vulnerable to cyber breaches. The nature of maritime operations involves constant interactions with onshore parties, which often includes sharing critical data and commercially sensitive information.

Other traits include the common use of legacy technology that relies on operating systems that are obsolete. The vast network of participants and stakeholders, serving different responsibilities and roles, often also means that meaningful cyber risk management cultures are difficult to implement.

Cyber breaches can cause significant damage, including the theft of information and cargo, loss of business reputation, destruction of vessels and property, and liability to third parties, to name a few. Costs to rectify these breaches can be pegged to loss of customer business, investigations and forensics, audit services, deployment of detection software, damage to the brand, and ultimately court settlements.

This all necessitates robust approaches to cyber risk management, which should cover major elements like identifying key management and personnel who should hold responsibilities for when disruptions occur. Contracts should also have express clauses that address cyber risk by clearly allocating liability and loss.

In the event of a breach, robust and frequently exercised protocols must be in place for staff members to report it to the board, comply with regulatory obligations and engage the crisis response team. Companies should also consider specific cyber security insurance with providers.

Earlier this year, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore issued a guidance note on the requirement to incorporate maritime cyber risk management in the safety management systems of companies operating Singapore-registered ships. The requirements included five functional elements: Identify, protect, detect, respond and recover.

For more details contact:

K. Murali Pany

Managing Partner

JTJB Singapore Office
E :
T : 6224 3645 / 9687 1165

Thailand: COLREGs & autonomous ships

The Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972 (COLREGs) was designed to ensure safety in ocean navigation. Thailand adopted the Prevention of Collision of Ships Act, 1979, after the country became a member-state of COLREGs.

The duty of good seamanship is one of the most significant principles of maritime navigation and is expressly stipulated in COLREGs Rule 2. COLREGs Rule 5 requires maintenance of a proper lookout by sight and hearing, as well as by all available means at all times, meaning there must always be both radar and actual lookout. COLREGs Rule 6 considers a safe speed appropriate for the existing conditions.

With the advent of technology and autonomous ships, the question is how these regulations are applied to an autonomous ship would not be able to comply with these regulations, particularly where human perception or decision is required to cope with any difficult circumstances in navigation. However, it is arguable that an autonomous ship with sufficiently good technology can comply with these regulations as:

(1) A properly qualified shore-based controller would be able to respond to any situation promptly;

(2) An autonomous ship with remote control function is likely to meet the contemplation of Rule 5 as it is assisted with cameras, audio equipment and satellite communications. The function of crew onboard having radar and actual watch by sight and hearing can be done via a shore-based controller; and

(3) An autonomous ship equipped with satellite communication, spatial sensors and control algorithms will acquire more precise data available more quickly, resulting in a more accurate determination of safe speed.

Thus, the COLREGs may apply to the operation of an autonomous ship, notwithstanding that it was designed for conventional vessels operated by humans. Presently, it is reported that 75-96% of marine accidents and casualties are caused by human error, and it remains to be seen whether autonomous ships may reduce this figure appreciably.

For more details contact:

Warinporn Benjasak

Managing Partner

JTJB Singapore Office
T: (66) 2 116 1747 Ext.16
(66) 9 599 10486