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Michele Fiorini, in an interview around ICT Solutions and Digitalisation in Ports and Shipping

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By: Marek Grzybowski 

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Around 80% of the volume of international trade in goods is carried by sea, and the percentage is even higher for most developing countries. The shipping industry is increasingly getting bigger. Orders for new shipping capacity reached a record of about 3.5 million twenty-foot containers so far this year, 2021, exceeding the previous high from 2007. We are living in an interconnected digital world.  To be effective modern systems are conceived according to ‘Secure by design’ principles aiming to guarantee three core cybersecurity attributes: confidentiality, integrity, and availability.

Marek Grzybowski 3 questions for Michele Fiorini, MBA, Ph.D., CEng, FIET, coeditor ‘ICT Solutions and Digitalisation in Ports and Shipping. in an exclusive interview for eBlueeconomy

He has been the Chair of the Council at the Institution of Engineering and Technology (London, United Kingdom, 2017–18) and a session chair at the Euro-Asia Economic Forum (Xi’an, China, 2013). He is a project engineering manager for Leonardo s.p.a. in Rome, Italy, and an industrial member of the e-Navigation Committee at the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA) in Paris, France. He is serving as a member of the advisory board of the MBA programme at the Gdańsk University of Technology in Poland and a judge for the E&T Innovation Awards in London, United Kingdom.

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Marek Grzybowski: What motivated you to edit and publish a book on ICT Solutions and Digitalisation in Ports and Shipping? Why do you think these two topics are closely related?

Dr. Michele Fiorini:

Editing a book is a collegial effort and requires a considerable deal of time and dedication. I used to have a systems engineering approach to editing a book. In the end, you have to deal with different contributes and your task is to integrate them in a harmonized logic flow that is worth consideration to the readers. Nothing is very different from integrating a large system and making it work according to user needs. To what motivates me, myself, I like to quote Karl-Erik Sveiby, professor emeritus at Hanken School of Economics in Finland, who said „Knowledge grows when it is shared and used; unused knowledge deteriorates”. Moreover publishing with the IET, a not-for-profit organization, means to me returning something to the profession (I am #ProudToEngineer) and the charity.

Around 80% of the volume of international trade in goods is carried by sea, and the percentage is even higher for most developing countries, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Switzerland. In order to sustain a such level of trades, maritime transports have to be globally interconnected, harmonized, efficient, and sustainable and this is only possible by making use of electronic means to exchange information among different stakeholders. Just consider the EU Single Window initiative, the IMO e-navigation, or even the more recent South Korean Government investments seeking to boost the domestic eco-friendly and smart shipping industry and so on. Also from the port’s perspective, all trends are going to fully automation for loading and unloading mega-ships and container’s movements among the port areas. All of those are making use of information and communication technology (ICT) solutions and some degree of automation, which means digitalization; here comes the book’s title.

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Marek Grzybowski: Global logistics has had a hard time with the Covid-19 pandemic. The shipping market and seaports quickly recovered from the pandemic. We have big problems in seaports again. How do you evaluate the shipping market today?

Dr. Michele Fiorini:

The container shipping market is experiencing a perfect storm of Covid-driven purchasing demand, port congestion (or containers shortage), and storms & typhoons boosting freight rates. The shipping operating costs have been risen constantly in the last few years, with a peak in 2020 and a very slow recovery ahead. Asset prices have doubled in six months or so. Companies are struggling to find creative solutions to improve the resilience of the entire supply chain logistics while the tendency of mega-shopping and global corridors seems indisputable. The shipping industry is increasingly getting bigger. Orders for new shipping capacity reached a record of about 3.5 million twenty-foot containers so far this year, 2021, exceeding the previous high from 2007, according to Drewry.

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The outlook for freight markets remains highly uncertain and the prevalence of the pandemic continues to disrupt vessel operations. The pressure on costs reduction will probably dampen any likely inflation, but the global energy transaction and the demand for sustainable infrastructures (decarbonization regulations) will add to owner cost burdens over the medium term.

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Marek GrzybowskiDevelopment of digitization increasing the threat of a cyber-attack. Shipowners suffered heavy losses as a result of cyberattacks. What is your opinion about the resistance of shipping and ports to cyberattacks?

Dr. Michele Fiorini:

We are living in an interconnected digital world. Cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities are being addressed in the ports and the shipping industry albeit not having yet achieved the required degree. The reasons are multiple, including the connectivity of information, communications, and cyber-physical systems. Modern ports and ships are elements of cyberspace which is a new „domain of warfare” with its own cyber-risks and new and growing cyber-threats as defined by Ablon L. et al. at a Lesson for NATO RAND Corporation recently.

To be effective modern systems are conceived according to ‘Secure by design’ principles aiming to guarantee three core cybersecurity attributes: confidentiality, integrity, and availability. Starting from the rules for software coding up to the full system architecture. When this is not possible, for instance, because the systems are already in the operation and maybe are getting older, it is necessary to consider the three pillars of cybersecurity: people, process, and technology. And proceed according to the „cumulative act effect”. Thus, if we cannot prevent to access a machine by the software we may close it into a rack cabinet (or a room) locked with a key.

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