Maritime Law Webinar Explores South Africa’s Cyber Resilience

Mr Matthew van Maasdyk
Mr Matthew van Maasdyk.

UKZN’s Unit of Maritime Law and Maritime Studies’ webinar on Enhancing Port-Sector Cyber Resilience in South Africa was the first of a series that will showcase research conducted by postgraduate students on the challenges confronting the country’s maritime sector.

The series is one of the initiatives stemming from a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the eThekwini Maritime Cluster (EMC) and the Unit.

The webinar was delivered by Candidate Legal Practitioner at Clyde & Co, Mr Matthew van Maasdyk who graduated with his Master of Laws in Maritime Law cum laude in September. It was based on his master’s research titled: Enhancing Port-Sector Cyber Resilience: An Evaluative Assessment of Adapting the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code with a View to Establishing a Cyber-Security Workforce within the Maritime Port Sector. The study highlighted the gap in South Africa’s maritime legislation and policy when it comes to achieving cyber resilience within the sector.

‘Transnet suffered a cyberattack in 2021 which compounded its efficiency challenges. The transition to smart ports calls for adequate procedures and policies. This is not a matter of choice, but necessity as we transition to the smart port era,’ said van Maasdyk. He compared South African ports’ cyber security measures with critical infrastructure sectors such as aviation.

‘In 2021 alone, there was a 900% increase in cyber security breaches on operating technology. As technology advances, the shipping industry is increasingly being recognised by a variety of cyber threat actors as a soft target for cyberattacks. It is an industry that changes over time but, unfortunately, it only changes after a catastrophic event.’

Van Maasdyk highlighted that perceptions that the human factor is the weakest link in a cyber-security strategy are misplaced as technical solutions and investment are inadequate. However, the human factor needs to be addressed through regular training programmes. Existing regulatory measures such as the ISPS Code may also require adaptation.

The presentation was followed by a brief overview of cyber “dos and don’ts” by legal expert Mr Christopher MacRoberts, a partner at Clyde & Co’s Johannesburg office. MacRoberts is an experienced litigator and specialist in cyber risks and data protection, financial lines insurance, professional indemnity and directors’ liability.

Programme Manager in eThekwini’s Logistics, Economic Development and Investment Promotion Unit Ms Nomalanga Sokhela said the municipality welcomes young minds coming up with new innovative solutions to address the challenges facing the maritime sector.

Acting Director of the Unit of Maritime Law and Maritime Studies Dr Dusty Donnelly thanked the EMC and maritime stakeholders for supporting the webinar.

Words: Thandiwe Jumo

Photograph: Supplied

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