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GENERAL DATA PROTECTION REGULATION (GDPR) IN THE SHIPPING INDUSTRY

October 13, 2020 GDPR

Introduction

The EU General Data Protection regulation (GDPR) was approved by the EU parliament on 14 April 2016 and comes into force on 25 May 2018. This piece of legislation introduces a new data protection framework to be applied to all the EU member states. This new regime – indeed much more severe and cogent than the existing one – aims to provide a greater amount of rights on individuals in relation to their data. As a result, the amount of obligations upon the organizations with regard to storage, collection, and treatment of personal data will definitely increase. One of the key changes is certainly the consequences in case of GDPR breaches. Fines for non-compliance, in fact, may reach up to either Euro 20 million or 4 % of the annual turnover (whichever is higher) for serious breaches.

 

What is Personal Data?

Pursuant to article 4 of the GDPR, personal data means any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person, so-called data subject. A natural person can be identified by an identifier such as a name, identification number, location data or through factors specific to social identity. Further to this, Special Category personal data is data revealing racial or ethnic origins, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, genetic and medical information. Organizations are subject to additional obligations while processing these special data.

 

When does an organization “Process” Personal Data?

Processing personal data means to perform an operation related to certain personal data; for example, by using, deleting, amending or disclosing such personal data.

 

Why the Shipping Industry will be affected by the GDPR?

Shipping companies store and handle a great amount of personal data, for instance passenger information, crew member details, travel documents, training records, bank details and other information gathered in the ordinary course of business. Moreover, shipping companies are likely to share this information with third parties such as port agents and P&I clubs.

Not only shipping companies will be subject to the GDPR. Brokers, surveyors, agents, correspondents, external services providers, very often deal with personal data, sometimes also sensitive ones. For instance, a personal injury claim or a claim involving a minor; in this case, the claimant – i.e. the data subject – will enjoy the right conferred by the GDPR.

 

To whom the GDPR applies to?

The GDPR applies to people of all nationalities when their personal data is processed by an organization established in EU. Also, the GDPR applies to non-EU organizations when they process personal data of people who are based in EU.

 

What are the consequences of failing to comply with the GDPR?

Indeed, the GDPR introduces draconian punishments. Fines for non-compliance may reach up to either Euro 20 million or 4 % of the annual turnover (whichever is higher) for serious breaches. For less serious offences, fines can reach up to Euro 10 million or 2% of turnover.

Apart from pecuniary punishments, non-compliance with the GDPR might keep the faulty organization away from important business opportunities in the future. Indeed, without mentioning the reputational consequences of a data breach, the GDPR compliance might become a paramount requirement for the companies in order to take part to the EU public contract tender, or in order to contract with companies siting in EU.

 

What should an organization do?

In order to comply with the GDPR, an organization should follow these 8 practical and essential steps:

  1. Awareness: be aware that the law is changing to the GDPR. All the people of an organization must understand the impact of this new piece of legislation.
  2. Information audit: assess what personal data the organization holds, where it comes from and who it is shared with. The audit is usually conducted by a legal team or professional firms with expertise in privacy matters.
  3. Draft privacy notice: after the audit is concluded, it is possible to draft a tailor-made privacy policy according to the types of personal data that the organization process. Certain organizations are advised to draft several privacy policies, for example, one which contains specific wording where special category data is collected, another one for commercial use, and another one for HR purposes.
  4. DPO: where appropriate, appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO). An organization is required to appoint a DPO – i.e. someone to take responsibility for data protection compliance – where carries out the regular and systematic monitoring of individuals on a large scale or, carries out the large-scale processing of special categories of data such as health records, or information about criminal conviction. A competent external DPO can bring technical expertise and help to save time.
  5. Consent: review how the organization obtains, records and manages consent. Consent must be specific, granular, clear, prominent, properly documented and easily withdrawn.
  6. Individuals’ rights: check the procedure and be sure that they cover all the rights that individuals have. According to the GDPR, individuals have the right to: be informed, access, rectification, erasure, object and restrict processing. Therefore, the organization, for instance, should be ready to react if someone asks to have their personal data delated or modified.
  7. Data Breaches: make sure that the right procedures are in place to detect, report and investigate a personal data breach, so-called Incident Report Plan. Authorities must be notified of any breach of the regulations within 72 hours of the event.
  8. Training: ensure that organization personnel is trained about the GDPR compliance. A GDPR crash course along with periodic training would be appropriate in certain circumstances.

 

Will the GDPR affect the data that a ship uses and shares?

Yes, in so far as such data is considered Personal Data pursuant to article 4 of the GDPR.

 

Is a commercial data (B/L, Data of Vessel) subject to GDPR?

No, unless commercial data includes personal data.

 

Are the GDPR fines excluded from a P&I cover?

No. However, cover for such fine would indeed requires that all the reasonable steps to avoid the breach had been taken.

 


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