Sunderland businessman helps marine firms stay shipshape on-line

Dr Mick Thurlbeck
Dr Mick Thurlbeck

A Sunderland businessman wants to help maritime firms who are all at sea over on-line safety.

Dr Mick Thurlbeck, major-shareholder and Chief Executive of Singapore-based management consultants Stapleton International, has beomce increasingly worried about how lax cyber security can be in the sector, where he does much of his work.

"There have been some high profile cases that have caused great concern throughout the shipping world," said Mick, Visiting Fellow in Enterprise at the University of Sunderland and an expert in management performance.

"For example, one maritime chief engineer inserted a USB into a PC on his ship’s computer, seriously affecting the vessel’s navigation systems."

"Another serious case concerned a global shipping conglomerate that was hacked by pirates, wanting to find out which vessels were transporting the particular cargo they planned to seize.

"And Maersk shipping line suffered a Cyber attack last June which they reported would cost them between $200million and $300million.

"There are numerous other examples of unauthorised or accidental access to systems that have resulted in the failure of critical systems with potentially catastrophic consequences including loss of life, environmental damage and revenue loss.

"With vessels, ports, terminals and transport operators relying increasingly on integrated and interconnected information systems, the cyber security threat safety within the maritime industry is very real."

In response to the increasing number of incidents within the sector, Dr Thurlbeck has launched a cyber security awareness training programme aimed at making the

shipping world a safer place.

"We aim to become the leader in cyber safety awareness training within the global maritime industry within two years,” he said.

"Our five-module programme includes the guidelines issued by IMO, BOMCO and Classification Societies and has been developed in conjunction with the Marine Learning Alliance (MLA), the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology and the University of Sunderland.

"The course is available to all seafarers, their home office staff, vendors and subcontractors via MLA’s app and incorporates bespoke video footage, animations

and various exercises."

Interest in the CyberSafe@sea awareness course extends globally for Stapleton International.

Professor Vicky Vass, Managing Director of the Australian division, has been working with organisations across Australia, India and in the Pacific region to extend the reach of the course. Making it available through anapp means anyone is able to access it anytime of the day or night, in any part of the world.

An agreement is already in place with a global safety training company and negotiations regarding further collaborative partnerships with other leading organisations within the maritime sector are almost complete.

Dr Thurlbeck added: "The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has indicated that from January 2021 cyber safety awareness training will be compulsory, so potential customers will have no option but to buy a product of this type.

"Because our product is easily accessible, clear, enjoyable and competitively priced, we believe we can quickly become market leaders.

"The response we’ve had to date has been hugely encouraging, with companies telling us they’re awaiting the launch of the app. We’ve also had proactive support from UK House of Lord members Lord Patel of Bradford and Admiral Lord West of Spithead.

Now we have launched the app, we are looking to see what other sectors it can make a difference in – starting with the area of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). When developed this new app combines the fundamentals of cyber security with the requirements of GDPR."

A Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and Fellow of the Royal Institution of Naval Architects (RINA), Dr Thurlbeck has more than 35 years’ experience in the energy, oil and gas, process, engineering and marine sectors.

For more information about the CyberSafe@Sea programme, contact Dr Thurlbeck at cybersafe@stapint.com