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Published: 3 July 2017      

Maersk gets IT systems back on track

On 3 July Maersk Group IT systems went back online and the company expects affected business groups to be fully functional in a week.

Maersk Group has announced that it is back online after suffering a crippling cyber attack last week. “We can, with great certainty, say that we have never experienced anything like this and therefore we are extremely excited to have achieved a milestone in the journey to be back fully online. Today we can finally reopen our key applications,” Maersk stated.

Maersk took a moment to thank its partners and colleagues around the world for pulling together as it struggled to come to terms with the industry’s biggest disruption due to cyber crime to date. “We are humbled by the number of people who have offered their help, and the flexibility shown has been tremendous. The amount of partners who have offered us to come work at their offices, or who have helped us use different data sources is overwhelming. Thank you so much for this”. 

It is, however, going to be a long road back for Maersk. “To successfully serve our global customers we run 1 500 applications which need to be brought up one by one in the correct sequence and enable 49 000 end users across 500 locations. This all takes time, but we continue to work through it with perseverance and absolute commitment”.  

For container terminals, this means work-arounds using different systems (including paper-based recording) are likely to continue for some time yet. Maersk said it expects to have “all applications and users fully functional” within a week. 

As of Sunday 2 July, the only terminal in the APM Terminals network where some activities had not resumed was the new MVII automated terminal in Rotterdam, where rail and quayside activity was still suspended. Yard operations had resumed in a limited capacity, import containers could booked for collection based on stack availability, and the terminal expected to open for export receiving on 3 July, at the same time increasing the number of stacks operating to boost import availability. 

At other terminals including Aarhus, Gothenburg, Izmir and Poti terminals are open but some or all aspects of container processing are in “manual” mode. 

The fallout from the incident, however, is only really just beginning, and there will be a debate about the extent to which the fragmented and disparate nature of the IT systems that underpin global shipping leave the whole industry vulnerable to cyber crime. 

The blockchain industry especially is looking to leverage Maersk’s misfortune to push change in its direction. Antony Abell, Managing Director of blockchain company TrustMe stated: “If Maersk had completed their shift from their existing Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) to a blockchain enabled platform, then the current ransomware attack on them would not have taken place. This event is another piece of evidence that industrial companies must move faster to keep their systems secure in the face of evolving cyber threats.”

Jody Cleworth, CEO of Marine Transport International Limited, which developed the blockchain-enabled SOLASVGM product for the Verified Gross Mass process added: “It appears that shipping lines are facing their own Y2K moment. The current legacy systems in the industry are creaking and vulnerable to attack. One particular problem, for the supply chain is the large number of stakeholders involved – just one weak link can open them up to attack”.

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