Danish shipping company Moller-Maersk’s New Zealand arm has broken silence as its phone systems restore amidst the fall out of a global cyber attack slowing import operations.
Maersk Australia and New Zealand managing director Gerard Morrison said on Thursday afternoon that its phone and email systems had been deliberately shut down by the company to stop the spreading of the malware virus, dubbed NotPetya, that hacked its computers in Europe on Tuesday night.
All of its systems except its phone lines remained down, relaying an “enormous” impact to ports across the globe, he said.
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Morrison said its New Zealand staff had been keeping operations going manually, using Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and hand written information to tell Port of Auckland and Port of Tauranga what to do with the cargo that needed to be unloaded off its ships.
This had slowed the arrival of imports but it was too early to tell how long the delay would be for businesses to receive their incoming goods, he said.
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Morrison said staff at its Auckland office were overwhelmed with support from hundreds of its nearby clients that offered phone lines, internet connections and office space.
Port of Tauranga (POT) said late Thursday morning that it currently had one Maersk ship docked but it faced no issues or delays in unloading.
POT commercial manager Leonard Sampson said it was “business as usual” at the site as it continued to communicate with Maersk through an “alternative method”, suggestively an external Gmail account set up by Maersk to speak with its clients.
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Ports of Auckland (POA) spokesman Matt Ball said the first ship carrying Maersk containers since the cyber attack was due to arrive at the port on Friday.
Ball said its port operations were already suffering the fallout from Maersk’s IT systems shutting down because most of its mutual information was shared digitally.
POA confirmed on Wednesday that it was receiving information about the imported cargo from Maersk manually through a Gmail account.
“Maersk have no means of receiving load lists, discharge lists, or instructions for cargo release. They have even closed down their email servers and are communicating via Gmail.”
Multinational freight company Mainfreight also said its export and import operations in New Zealand had been affected.
Mainfreight managing director Don Braid said that it was one of hundreds of companies suffering from the communication issue.
A statement released by Mainfreight on Wednesday said it could not book cargo with Maersk nor retrieve or export freight on vessels that were operated by APM Terminals, a subsidiary of Maersk.
Braid said: “The big issue will be when the ships come into the ports.”
Maersk’s Morrison said it was now able to accept some cargo bookings through platform INTTRA but was working on creating a manual booking process that would be available to New Zealand clients on Friday morning.
Kotahi Logistics, which manages shipping logistics for Fonterra, chief executive David Ross said on Thursday afternoon that it was pleased with Maersk’s communication efforts and expected “minimal disruption” to its cargo flow.
Kiwirail spokeswoman Sarah Stuart said on Thursday morning that its operations had not been affected despite having Maersk as a client.
Courier company TNT Express said in a statement on Thursday that its mail services would be delayed but when contacted it could not say how that would affect New Zealanders awaiting deliveries.
The FedEx subsidiary, which operates in New Zealand, said in a statement released late on Thursday morning: “Like many other companies and institutions around the world, we are experiencing interference with some of our systems within the TNT network.”
The cyber attack has led to congestion at some of the 76 ports run by its APM Terminals unit, including in the United States, India, Spain and the Netherlands as well as New Zealand. The company handles one out of seven containers shipped worldwide.
New Zealand’s government cyber safety authority, Computer Emergency Response Team (Cert NZ), continued to report on Thursday morning that it had not received any reports of infections from the malware – dubbed both Petya and NotPetya.
It mainly affected Ukraine, but also hit a swag of multinational firms.
While Maersk has been the big worry because of the knock-on effect on supply chains, Cadbury owner Mondelez, law firm DLA Piper and advertising giant WPP were also victims of NotPetya.
Symantec cyber security manager Nick Savvides said on Wednesday that the malware attack was similar to the WannaCry ransomware attack that affected Windows computer users last month.
However, there is growing speculation NotPetya was not designed to make money but instead to do economic damage.
The malware spreads automatically through company networks once one machine is compromised, but appears not to be programmed to automatically leap from one organisation to another.
Instead, the attack appears to have been “seeded” by an infected update to Ukrainian accounting software service MeDoc, and possibly by phishing emails.