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Cyber Threats To Shipping Grow In East Mediterranean


Via Platts’ ‘The Barrel’ blog,

In the first part of this double feature, Katherine Dunn investigates an emerging security risk for the shipping industry, as maritime authorities report a rising number of GPS failures

Early one Sunday in mid-March, a ship in Port Said, the northern gateway to Egypt’s Suez Canal, suddenly and inexplicably lost all connection to GPS on board.

“All of them affected,” the vessel’s crew wrote in a March 18 report to the US Navigation Centre of Excellence (NAVCEN), after a total of seven receivers lost connection to GPS. “Disturbance still continuous.”

The cause of disruption, after an investigation by NAVCEN, was listed as “unknown interference.”

In the following days, vessels in and around Port Said and the Suez Canal reported sudden and unexplainable outages in their GPS, some lasting days, and referenced dozens of vessels in the area experiencing the same problem.

The disruptions were concentrated around the Canal, but also extended north along a strip of sea, from just east of Cyprus to the Lebanese coast. NATO has also reported disruptions off the south coast of Turkey. While the GPS mostly just disappeared, the reports noted, sometimes it placed the vessels somewhere they were not: in one case, a vessel in Port Said appeared on GPS to be west of Alexandria, more than 150 nautical miles to the west.

US and NATO officials were paying attention, with good reason. The region has seen military tensions escalate in recent years, particularly off the coast of Syria. It is also a vital trade route: in March, 1,450 vessels of all sizes transited the waterway, about a third of which were oil tankers or LNG ships, according to data from the Suez Canal Authority. Those vessels were carrying about 61 million barrels of crude oil alone, or

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