Fremantle Port Authority navigates disaster recovery

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Fremantle Port Authority navigates disaster recovery

Auditor examines WA ports' preparedness for IT breakdowns.

Fremantle Port Authority has emerged the only one of four Western Australian ports audited to have tested their IT disaster recovery plans over the past year.

State Auditor-General Colin Murphy found (pdf) that all port authorities he audited — Fremantle, Geraldton, Port Hedland and Esperance — had "disaster recovery plans for their information systems".

The plans "identified the critical systems/infrastructure, recovery time objectives and technical procedures for recovery" from an ICT system breakdown or failure.

However, only one of the four authorities audited had actually tested the plan.

"Fremantle Port Authority had tested its IT disaster recovery plan, including the use of their dedicated disaster recovery site, in the last 12 months," Murphy noted.

"No other port [we audited] has tested its information systems disaster recovery plan in this time."

In addition, only half of the authorities subjected to audit — Fremantle and Port Hedland — had a dedicated DR site "resourced ... with disaster recovery [ICT] infrastructure", Murphy found.

Murphy's audit concerned a broader issue around business continuity management by the state's port authorities.

Business continuity plans were needed not only for ICT system failures, but also more broadly during harbour closure due to a spill or ship grounding, infrastructure damage by a cyclone, or workers' disputes, the audit noted.

Fremantle again emerged as a leader when it came to business continuity management, with Murphy describing the authority as having "reached a high level of maturity".

Geraldton Port Authority also snared a "mature" rating. However, Port Hedland and Esperance did not exhibit the same level of maturity.

"Port Hedland has taken some preliminary steps towards managing their business continuity, while Esperance has not yet started," Murphy noted.

"A lack of mature business continuity management at our ports exposes the state to significant economic, social and environmental risks."

Such risks were exposed in a 2008 incident in which a ship laden with iron ore grounded for 12 hours while attempting to depart from Port Hedland. The port was closed for 17 hours.

Murphy noted that Western Australia now accounted for half of Australia's total exports, and that the state's ports had a big role to play in commodity exports and imports.

The audit did not take in all of Western Australia's port authorities, excluding the likes of Albany, Broome, Bunbury and Dampier.

Though Fremantle is spared, the remaining ports authorities are to consolidate starting in 2014 under a plan announced earlier this year.

Port Hedland noted that reviewing and maturing its business continuity capability was a "priority" for the 2013 financial year.

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