Addressing security in the global maritime industry

Tore Morten Olsen, President for Maritime at Marlink.

Tore Morten Olsen, President for Maritime at Marlink, shares with SatellitePro Middle East the key dangers posed by cyber threat and key developments in cyber security measures that must be undertaken in the industry, he also gives his views on the main drivers of the maritime market and more. 

I see that you recently participated in the Seatrade exhibition in Singapore. Are you able to share some of the key takeaways from that exhibition in terms of trends you thought were significant or evolving within the maritime industry?

Cyber security is a big focus in the global maritime industry at the moment, with ship owners looking to secure their systems against hackers and ransomware, as well as ensure that their data is collected and stored with the GDPR regulations. This is required for any ship visiting European ports, so it applies to ship owners worldwide. We also note that more APAC companies are migrating from L-band satellite communications for their fleets to VSAT services on Ka- or Ku-band. This comes from the steady realisation that more throughput can enable digital applications that support more efficient fleet management, while also keeping crew connected to friends and family ashore.

How has VSAT technology evolved over the years to better address connectivity within the maritime sector and what key solutions are you able to offer to address this demand?

The modern era of VSAT uses stabilised antennas, which Marlink was the first to use in the early nineties. While antennas have become more advanced, the same requirement still applies; we must be able to track satellites in the sky while a ship experiences six degrees of freedom in order to provide high availability of service. VSAT has further developed with our development of a multi-band network offering, which enables ships to operate with several available channels on board at once. Should the ship move outside of one services coverage, it will be automatically switched to an alternative carrier. We believe this holistic approach to network building is the only way to deliver industry-leading Quality of Service with very high Service Level Agreements.

While network development and coverage expansion are essential, it’s also important that the industry can get the most from its investment in satcom, which is why we offer an extensive portfolio of business-critical solutions, from complete remote onboard IT network management and cyber security solutions to web compression and filtering technology. We also focus on applications that make it easier and more cost effective for our customers to provide crew internet and voice calling, for instance with our XChange Bring Your Own Device solution, which allows seafarer to connect wireless to a ship’s network while enabling simple time-effective administration of accounts and management of the facility.

If not, is the APAC market important for you? Do you see this market as having some unique challenges that are different from other markets? If yes, how are you addressing that challenge or need?

The APAC market has some of the world’s largest shipowners, so it is very important to Marlink. We don’t see any specific challenges from our APAC customers. They are, just like all of our customers looking for high Quality of Service and reliability regionally and globally, and we address this through the on-going development of our multi-band network and development of new digital solutions that enable smarter operations on board. Efficiency is the target for the entire industry and using satcom to enable i.e., fuel-saving applications are important for all ship owners and managers.

Do you see 5G and IoT addressing some of the needs within maritime or is VSAT sufficient?

Line of sight and LTE services like 3G/4G and going forward 5G are very relevant to ships but their range from shore restrictions means that they are only useful for coastal vessels or for when ocean-going vessels are heading in to port. We currently integrate 3G/4G services with our multi-band VSAT services, giving our customers a lower-latency link when in range and we will do the same when 5G becomes available properly. Of course, any cellular network is interesting for IoT, but the same range restriction applies; data can’t be transmitted from the ship if it is circa 50 miles offshore or more. For this only L-band, MSS and VSAT will suffice, unless of course a ‘store-and-forward’ approach is used, holding on to data until your ship is within cellular coverage. This is, however, is counter-intuitive to the very reason for IoT, in that a continuous stream of data can provide operational benefits.

How has the demand in the maritime satcoms market changed or evolved over the years and how are solution providers addressing this demand?

Demand for satellite bandwidth is always increasing and our VSAT installations generally double in number year on year. We continue to deliver more optimised services and expand network capacity for different maritime segments to meet diverse requirements for bandwidth and flexibility in service. We have more innovations aimed at improving the wellbeing of crew members even further as well as development of business critical solutions, which help our customers get the most from their investment in satcom.

There is also a much stronger demand for cyber security solutions nowadays. As a leading maritime ICT specialist, we have always been focused on cyber security for our customers, offering an extensive portfolio of solutions on-top of our highly resilient network; from the ship-based SkyFile Anti-Virus and secure VPNs through to remote access solutions and an arsenal of network and teleport-based technology.

However, the cyber-threat continues to grow in the maritime world, so we are introducing a new cyber-security strategy, with sophisticated and unique to maritime technologies, and the implementation of an entire organisation dedicated to supporting our partners and end-users in protecting, detecting and responding to cyber-threats. All of this and more, make up our Cyber Guard Solutions Portfolio, a unique, holistic approach to maritime cyber security that meets dynamic and evolving needs.

Cyber Guard deploys established means such as a firewall and anti-virus (PROTECT) and complements then with advanced network-based hardware and software solutions, cyber expertise (DETECT and RESOLVE) as well as training. The goal is to prevent Marlink customers from ever being in a position of having to pay hackers a ransom, a fine to national bodies or suffering from a severe loss of reputation.

The portfolio also includes a new solution, called ‘Cyber Detection’. This dynamic, 24/7 service oversees all incoming and outbound network traffic, granting users an instant view of any potential cyber-threats via its intuitive, web-based Cyber Dashboard, which issues live alerts and maintains a complete archive. It can be configured to dispense critical threat notifications via SMS and/or email. Each threat description is accompanied with practical counter-measure suggestions available within the Cyber Guard portfolio.

Additionally, users have the option of consulting a specialist surveillance team at Marlink’s Security Operations Centre (SOC) – highly-trained experts, working in tandem with the Cyber Detection solution,  who are well-versed in chasing down and identifying targeted, under-the-radar threats which can often slip past traditional automated security solutions.

Are you able to share any statistics within the APAC market and the maritime market to substantiate the reason for how you are catering to this market?

Marlink has experienced a 50% growth in the take up of VSAT in the APAC market over the last 12 months, reflecting strong global growth overall.

Not only are our solutions compatible with changing needs, but our work in delivering global satellite capacity and business critical solutions for the shipping industry is also enabling the evolution of operations at sea and on land. Satcom is the foundation of maritime digital transformation, where shipping companies can leverage the power of the data that their vessels and fleets create to optimise efficiency, reduce operational costs and better meet new regulations and environmental targets.

Moving to a fully digital operational model brings clear and tangible benefits, but a step-change such as this is only viable when you can count on the availability of connectivity to move data from ship to shore and vice versa. At Marlink we are committed to delivering this and continually expanding our network with overlapping satellite beams to ensure unmatched access to the Internet from anywhere in the world.

With maritime satcom, there is no ‘one size fits all’, which is why we are focused on delivering a wide orbital spread using satellites from all major operators. Through this, we can meet any requirements from our customers. We continue to add new satellites and beams, even offering double and triple redundancy to ensure that we can deliver the amount of bandwidth needed.

We are also watching in-development LEO (Low Earth Orbit) constellations closely. We see that the low-latency they provide could have some benefit in specific maritime applications but generally, the influx of new capacity from new networks will only be a positive thing for Marlink customers and the maritime industry.