Cyber-SHIP Lab

Maritime cyber-threat research and development: unique hardware-based platform to replicate, risk-assess and add resilience to any ship’s bridge

Cyber-attacks can cost companies millions, threaten National Security and endanger human life.

While relatively well understood in most sectors, it is becoming clear that, although the maritime sector is becoming more technologically advanced, it is not well protected against cyber or cyber-physical attacks and accidents.

The £3 million Research England supported Cyber-SHIP Lab project will address a number of the complex and interlinked cyber-security issues that affect the maritime industry. 

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The University of Plymouth Cyber-SHIP Lab will combine maritime technology with leading-edge thinking from cyber-security. Outputs from the Lab will help identify security-risks, stimulate the development of meaningful solutions, and provide a space for demonstrations, outreach, and training leading to the adoption of best-practice and policy to ensure national-security.

Stakeholders including the shipping industry, equipment suppliers, classification societies and insurers will be in a unique position to shape and benefit from critical research in areas covering logistical, business and psychological aspects to safeguard future operation. 

The Cyber-SHIP Lab project is being coordinated by researchers from the University’s Maritime Cyber Threats Research Group [papers] and Centre for Security, Communications and Network Research [papers], which between them combine leading multidisciplinary research and practical expertise from across the University and beyond.

They draw on an extensive track record of research in areas including:

  • threats and impacts in maritime cyber security
  • cyber-risk assessment for autonomous ships
  • model-based frameworks for maritime cyber-risk assessment
  • maritime cyber-security policy: the scope and impact of evolving technology on international shipping.

UK Aviation, Maritime and Security Minister’s message of support at the Cyber-SHIP Lab Showcase Preview 

The Rt Hon Robert Courts MP, Minister for Aviation, Maritime and Security opened the Cyber-SHIP Lab’s Showcase Preview with a message of support and encouragement.

“This unique new research facility will further enhance the University’s world-leading maritime facilities, building on Plymouth’s strong maritime history to ensure the UK is at the forefront of the future maritime sector.” He added: “I am so pleased that the Cyber-SHIP Lab will play a crucial part in tackling the cyber security challenges facing the shipping industry.”


Creating a ship's bridge in the lab

A main component of the project is to bring together a host of connected maritime systems currently found on an actual ship’s bridge.

Once completed it will complement our existing ship simulator, bringing together core equipment readily used in today’s fleet that can then be configured in vessel-specific layouts.

This unique facility can then be used to determine key vulnerabilities when subjected to a range of attacks, leading to the development and demonstration of safeguards at both technical and system, and operational level. It will enable researchers to improve global shipping security while providing training for those working in the sector.

Working with industry

A key element of the project is its extensive collaboration with industry, and there are 18 commercial partners working alongside the University to bring it to fruition.

They include ship operators as well as companies involved in the supply of hardware and software, the construction of ship’s bridges and the training and management of personnel who work in the commercial shipping industry all over the world.

Industry involvement in this project is vital, as it is only by working with those in the sector that we can develop the solutions that can be applied in the real world.

Collaborate with us

The University of Plymouth has an unrivalled track-record of industry engagement translating our leading research outputs into everyday societal benefit. We are now actively seeking partners to join with us in the creation of the Cyber-SHIP Lab.

Whether your interest is in shaping future collaborative research, meeting future training needs, or to ensure equipment resilience, please contact the Project Manager Chloe Rowland via email chloe.rowland@plymouth.ac.uk to discuss how your organisation can be engaged in this pioneering, globally-leading development for maritime.

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“Cyber-attacks are a Tier1 National UK threat. But although the maritime sector is advancing technologically, it is not well protected against cyber or cyber-physical attacks and accidents. Worth trillions, it has an unmatched reach across international waters, which exposes people and goods to a diverse range of factors, putting the shipping industry at high risk. As such, this facility has never been more timely.”

Plymouth Pioneer Professor Kevin Jones, Executive Dean for Science and Engineering and Principal Investigator for the Cyber-SHIP Lab Project.