20 August 2017

Ethiopia: Maersk Line Goes Offline

The largest container shipping company in the world, Maersk Line, has moved to a manual system to clear the bill of lading documents at the port of Djibouti, following the recent cyber-attack on the company's database system.

A group of experts from the Ethiopian Shipping & Logistics Services Enterprise (ESLSE), Maersk Line and Ethiopian Revenues & Customs Authority (ERCA) went to the port of Djibouti and temporarily converted the system of clearing bill of lading documents to a manual system, according to sources close to the case.

By the end of June, a ransom malware, named NotPetya, attacked the company, disrupting the data and information of consignee party, notify person and shipper. Following the attack, the process of clearing and issuing the bill of lading for the shipped items became complicated. It ended up creating congestion at the port and delay of shipment delivery.

The NotPetya attack hit 2,000 companies in Russia, Ukraine, Poland, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States. Maersk was one of the victims.

NotPetya is from a family of file-encrypting ransomware programs that were first discovered in May 2016. They target Microsoft based systems, infecting the master boot record to execute a payload that encrypts a hard drive's file system table and prevents Windows from booting.

The attack disrupted Mearsk's data-reliant processes, such as creating arrival notices and obtaining customs clearance, leading to congestion at some of its ports including at the port of Djibouti, where 90pc of Ethiopia's cargo is shipped through. Ethiopia also accounts for 70pc of the total activity at the port of Djibouti.

"We were one of many companies hit by the malware," said Addis Alemtaye, sales & country manager at Maersk Line Ethiopia.

The company, owing to the malware attack, posted a loss during the second quarter of 2017, according to the Wall Street Journal. The cyber attack could also cost it as much as 300 million dollars in lost revenue, according to the same source.

As soon as the company became aware of this, it took action to close systems, notify authorities and implement a technical recovery plan with key IT partners and global cyber security agencies, according to Addis.

But companies who shipped items via Maersk were not able to hand over items even if they were notified their containers have arrived at the Port of Djibouti.

"We were informed that our shipped machinery reached the port a month ago, but our item could not be released as the document can not be cleared," said a person who is in the process of importing machinery to set up a new plant in Ethiopia.

Represented by its exclusive agent, Freighters International (PABOMI) Plc that was established in 1990, Maersk Line possesses the lion's share in shipping items to Ethiopia by transporting 30pc of the imported goods to the country. Annually it carries 60,000 twenty-feet containers under the ESLSE.

"To clear the documents of the congested cargoes for the past two months at the port, we cleared the shipments with existing documents in collaboration with ERCA and Maersk," said Alemu Ambaye, deputy CEO of ESLSE.

"But, I heard the company is currently loading the shipments from the initial points online," he added.

Maersk's inland network, which connects seamlessly with three weekly ocean services to and from the port of Djibouti, was finally converted to a manual system to clear the documents of shipping containers until the system is fixed.

"We have made good progress in restoring systems safely and securely, and we are doing business with customers. We have and continue to work with our clients to mitigate any negative impact of the incident on their cargo," said Addis.

Established in 1928 and headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark, Maersk is operating in 130 countries with its 611 vessels and 306 offices. It has 88,000 employees.

The company serves 59,000 customers, shipping 12 million containers a year to 343 ports around the world. It declared a 40.3 billion dollar revenue in 2015. It handles one out of every seven containers shipped globally.

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