Could your BWTS offer a back door to cyber hackers?

Written by Nick Blenkey
ballast water treatment system could be prone to cybersecurity threats


Like any networked system or control software onboard ship, the ballasting process, including the treatment system, can be susceptible to a cyberattack, with hackers looking for an entry point to a vessel’s Operational Technology (OT) systems.

That warning comes from French UV-based water treatment specialist BIO-UV Group. It has now developed state-of-the-art cybersecurity software for its BIO-SEA ballast water treatment system ahead of two International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) Unified Requirements that are set to enter into force next year.

Adopted in 2021 to increase the cyber resilience of ships, the requirements (UR E26 and UR E27) will be applied to new ships contracted for construction on and after January 1, 2024.

The requirements are twofold: to ensure the secure integration of equipment into the vessel’s network throughout its operational lifespan; and to make the interface between users and computer-based systems/equipment more resilient.


“This could be a problem for legacy systems,” said Charlène Ceresola, project manager, BIO-UV Group. “It’s not the case with a BIO-SEA unit, but older ballast water treatment systems can be susceptible to a cyberattack. If the ballasting system is hacked and pumps operated remotely, ship stability is at risk; a ship could sink, and lives lost. It’s much more than simply an environmental threat.”

“We are following these guidelines and have developed greater cyber secure functions to our software ahead of the requirement,” Ceresola added. “In an increasingly connected and digitized world, every component onboard ship has to be cyber secure.”

BIO-UV Group completed testing of the new cyber secure function in 2022, with full type approval expected later this year.

“Software development forms a key part of our commitment to going beyond compliance,” said BIO-SEA business director, Maxime Dedeurwaerder. “In terms of development, what is changing for the industry now is the need for more advanced solutions for remote maintenance; solutions for integrating BWTS with different cabling configurations; and solutions for different water conditions and UV dosage rates. The refinements we are making are not part of the Ballast Water Convention but will help operators better manage the ballasting process.”

As the global BWTS market matures and moves from an acquisition and supply market to one of support and service, BIO-UV Group says it has seen increased focus on system integration and engineering.

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