Revamped IACS cyber recommendations due by year-end

Paul Gunton

Paul Gunton · 23 September 2019


Class societies are due to receive recommendations on testing software for cyber-resilience by the end of the year, according to Suresh Sinha, managing director of IRClass, the Indian Register of Shipping. The classification society currently holds the chairmanship of the International Association of Classifications Societies (IACS) and of its General Policy Group (GPG).

They will not be issued as a Unified Requirement, Mr Sinha told ShipInsight, so each IACS member will decide whether to adopt their advice.

They will replace an earlier set of 12 cyber security proposals that IACS launched in September 2018. But Mr Sinha said that when they were presented to a joint industry group of 13 industry organisation, their feedback was that, while they welcomed the proposals, they needed simplifying. Their preference was for a single set of goal-based standards that gave clear guidance on how to address cyber security, he added.

This focus on cyber security echoes a pledge made in 2015 by the then IACS chairman, Christopher Wiernicki of ABS, to address ‘cyber system integrity’ as one of three “legs of the safety stool”.

Although the re-packaged recommendations may be more user-friendly, their purpose is the same as when IACS launched its original set. It said then that they were intended to enable “the delivery of cyber-resilient ships whose resilience can be maintained throughout their working lives.” Mr Sinha said that their replacement would be a single document intended to ensure that “ships will be designed, built, operated and maintained to be cyber-resilient throughout their lifecycle.”

The overall project to develop the recommendations is led by ABS but IRClass has been chairing a task force set up to achieve their consolidation, working with Class NK and the Italian class society RINA. They have received feedback on their proposed revision and the final version will be issued later this year. But Mr Sinha emphasised that the recommendations do not relate to a ship’s operation and maintenance because industry bodies have already developed guidelines for that.

One such set of guidelines, developed jointly by nine industry organisations, is available online via the International Chamber of Shipping’s website. IMO also issued guidelines, in 2017.

In an exclusive interview with ShipInsight before he became IACS chairman on 1 July, IRClass’s executive chairman Arun Sharma had mentioned that he wanted IACS to work more closely with IMO in some areas, one of which was cyber security. In fact, the two organisations already share a memorandum of understanding that was signed in 2016, which includes a reference to cyber safety as one of three areas for collaboration, but these latest IACS recommendations have not involved any input from IMO, Mr Sinha said.

Suresh Sinha MD IR Class LISW 2019 GPG Pic
New IACS cyber-security advice will be goal-based, following industry feedback, said Suresh Sinha

But during a briefing given by IRClass on 10 September during the London International Shipping Week, Mr Sharma that IACS and IMO are working together “in a very informal way at this stage” on a data-related policy that he said would be “mutually beneficial to both IACS and IMO.”

The event was titled ‘The future of class’ and Mr Sharma joked that its title “at least says there is a future for class” before saying that the way classification societies perform their primary role of protecting life, assets and the environment “will be quite different” in the future, not least because of the growing importance of data, he suggested.

“People must have the right data at the right time [and] with the right people to make strong data-driven decisions,” he said, and he believes that the joint IACS-IMO data-driven policy he had referred to will achieve this. IACS already has an Expert Group focused on data and Mr Sharma described its role as to “work out a policy and a format [to consider] what we need the data for, what data is required and how it will be analysed to give some actionable points.”

Speaking at the same event, Mr Sinha also underlined the importance that data will have in classification’s future role. He said that class is already “being seen as a facilitator, not just a regulator” as it works with industry to comply with international regulations “and all this requires a lot of innovation and up-skilling,” involving making use of data, he said.

Two examples of that are remote surveying and condition-based survey intervals, which will both depend on having sufficient data. So “data is one of our priorities, not just for IACS but also IRClass because without data systems, we could not provide a wide range of services,” he said.

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