“We planned and scheduled vessels with marginal data, without incurring delays outside of our normal planning. Many people used their own equipment and took late night phone calls to make this happen. It was a team effort across the board,” says Stephen Davis, Maersk Line’s Marine Manger on the US East Coast.
This description of the reaction to the cyber-attack that hit A.P. Moller - Maersk on 27 June 2017 is echoed around the world. Most employees will recall where they were and what they did, be it setting up a chat group, helping a colleague or carrying out entirely new tasks. Each initiative is a part of the bigger picture that shows how the company bounced back, while focusing on its customers.
15% of global trade
In the wake of the cyber-attack, Maersk had to take down between 1,500–2,000 systems. Immediately, countless employees from across the globe, in all functions and brands, went out of their way to help their colleagues in the recovery effort. This was fundamental to Maersk being able to keep 15% of global trade moving with the help of Twitter, Excel, WhatsApp and Gmail.
Lia Tamara Jaspe, Network Design Manager in Panama, was one of many who took on new roles to help the recovery. She says “initially everyone was terrified when the virus struck, but then the management team began to react with creativity to find solutions, using WhatsApp, Macs, Gmail, etc. The cargo team needed help so I volunteered.”
"From then on, there was a spirit of everybody working together, of being creative and doing whatever it took to find a way to make it work,” she adds. “To me it proved that Maersk is so much more than containers in a terminal. I have worked here for 25 years, and honestly, it made me so proud to have dedicated my life to this company.”
Spreading the word
Shereen el Zarkani, Global Head of Sales at Maersk Line, was working from Egypt at the time of the attack and that represented an additional challenge. After new channels of communications had been established, the massive task of reaching out to thousands of customers could start:
“We had to make sure that the sales people knew what was going on globally. In particular, we have the key clients who have executive sponsors from across the business, and this was exactly the time when we needed them,” she says, adding:
“Whether an executive call or a sales representative in the frontline, the task was first and foremost to speak with the customers and constantly update, reassure and appease them.”
Depending on the progress of the recovery, sales personnel were helping their colleagues in customer service answer queries from many customers as to the whereabouts of their containers. Here, Shereen el Zarkani highlights the finance employees helping operation, emphasising that “it was very cross-functional”.
Employees, across the board, were keen to lend a helping hand wherever needed. For Leonardo Veintemilla, Sales Channel Manager at Maersk Line, plunging into Customer Service Support in Panama was a learning experience:
“It was gratifying to step in and learn a different perspective from the frontline team – especially at that difficult time where we didn’t have the tools available to support our customers the way we would like to. However, having the right attitude went a long way in making them feel that we were doing everything we could to provide an excellent service with the resources we had available,” he says.
New roles and new countries
Others threw themselves into not only new roles but also new countries. Manjini Balanarayanan, an Operations Team Manager working in the Global Service Centre in Chennai, was one of many who were flown to frontline terminals to assist. There, the containers had arrived, but, with so many systems down, no one knew where they needed to go.
“Initially, we didn’t even have good Wifi to get connected with additional resources, so we had to be creative while management in Maersk Line Asia Pacific and MCC provided good support with innovative ideas," says Balanarayanan of his arrival in Malaysia. "We tried using lots of alternative ways to communicate with one another, using WhatsApp and Google Drive in sending the data information.”