New research identifies five security risks to port infrastructure

Madrid, Spain

Valencia is one of Europe's main shipping ports Image courtesy of Prosegur

Prosegur Research’s Intelligence and Foresight Unit has carried out an exhaustive analysis of this situation, identifying the five main security risks to port infrastructure.

Maritime transport dominates global trade, accounting for up to 90% of the total, according to the World Trade Organization. Specifically, in Europe it accounts for 77% of the continent's external trade activities and 35% of internal commerce between member states. Rotterdam, Hamburg, Algeciras, Marseille and Valencia are among Europe’s main ports.

This predominance of maritime trade underscores the importance of strengthening the security of port infrastructure. As the economic importance of these ports increases, so do the security challenges and threats. In response, Prosegur Research’s Intelligence and Foresight Unit has carried out an exhaustive analysis of this situation, identifying the five main security risks to port infrastructure:

  • Cyber-attacks: In an interconnected world, port information systems are essential. These manage vital data, from shipping records to financial information. However, this digitisation also makes them tempting targets for cyber criminals. The threat doesn’t just come from data theft or industrial espionage, but the possibility of entire operations being brought down through targeted attacks.
  • Cargo theft: Ports store and move a wide variety of goods. Loss, theft or piracy can have significant economic repercussions, not only for the companies involved, but for the global supply chain. The need for stronger physical security systems, from surveillance to access controls, has never been more important.
  • Social risks: Ports, by their nature, are focal points for economic and social activities. This makes them potential sites for legitimate and legal protests, as well as for vandalism and sabotage. These activities can disrupt operations, damage infrastructure and ultimately affect the reputation of ports globally.
  • Political risks: Ports, as crucial nodes in global trade networks, can be affected by geopolitical tensions. Trade sanctions, territorial disputes or diplomatic tensions can have a cascading effect on port operations, from delays to complete blockages.
  • Environmental challenges: Ports are exposed to environmental factors such as storms, floods and pollution. Adaptation and preparedness against these contingencies is essential. In addition, the introduction of pathogens by shipping is a growing concern, especially in the current global health context.

To address these challenges, Prosegur Research argues that the best strategy is to bring together human analysis, experience and intuition with technology such as artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing, digital twins (a technology that creates a real-time digital replica of a physical asset such as a port, integrating real-time data, analysis and simulations), video surveillance, drones and detection sensors. This approach makes it possible to accurately anticipate the risks port infrastructure is exposed to and, therefore to implement effective protection and mitigation measures.

Prosegur Research concludes that hybrid security is the indispensable response to these challenges. This strategy integrates advanced technologies with human capacity to effectively address security risks. Collaboration between various entities, from port authorities to the private sector, is essential to strengthen this hybrid approach and ensure that ports are prepared and protected against the adversities of the future.


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