Off-grid: China’s data law deepens disruption to global shipping

Containers are seen at the Yangshan deep-water port in Shanghai, China on October 19, 2020. REUTERS / Aly Song

  • China a key global supplier of cargo shipped from ports
  • AIS tracking is essential for tracking vessel movements in China
  • At least 45% drop in tracking data in recent days-sources

LONDON / HONG KONG, Nov. 17 (Reuters) – Ships in Chinese waters disappear from tracking systems following the introduction of a new data law in China, frustrating efforts to alleviate bottlenecks that the world economy is booming, according to three maritime sources directly impacted.

China’s Personal Information Protection Law, which took effect on November 1, joined a series of new rules designed to increase government control over how domestic and foreign organizations collect and export data from the China.

Although there are no specific shipping data guidelines in the regulations, some domestic suppliers in China have stopped providing information to foreign companies as a direct result of the new rules, the sources told Reuters on Wednesday. .

The data is used to provide information on freight volumes and help optimize logistics by predicting congestion so that businesses can make key decisions on shipping routes.

MarineTraffic, one of the world’s leading providers of ship tracking and maritime intelligence, is one of those overseas companies that are currently experiencing gaps in vital tracking data for shipments from China, where much of its origin comes from. the global supply of manufactured products and certain industrial products.

“If this continues, there will be a big impact in terms of global visibility, especially as we enter the busy Christmas season with supply chains already facing huge problems all over the world,” he said. said Anastassis Touros, AIS network team leader at MarineTraffic.

“Suddenly we don’t know when the ships are leaving and where from, nor do we have the full picture of port congestion that AIS gives us.”

The Automatic Identification System (AIS) provides tracking positions on vessels. It is used by other ships, ports and many other organizations, from banks and traders to search and rescue operations.

From October 28 to November 15, the level of land navigation data in all Chinese waters fell by 90% according to market information and rating provider VesselsValue.

“With China being a major importer of coal and iron ore and one of the world’s largest container exporters, this drop in position data could pose significant issues regarding the visibility of the ocean supply chain,” said Charlotte Cook, chief trade analyst.

Two other sources estimate the drop in terrestrial AIS data by up to 45% in recent days.

An official with the Guangdong Maritime Safety Administration told Reuters that AIS rules are set by the department’s headquarters in Beijing. Calls to the Beijing office of the Maritime Security Administration were not answered.

Other Chinese officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A spokesperson for the United Nations agency, the International Maritime Organization, which adopted the global AIS regulations, made no comment when contacted.

AIS information is taken from continuous transmissions and although it can be gathered using satellite data, for heavily congested areas or locations where frequent updates are required, terrestrial data is required.

It was not clear how AIS users will be able to keep an eye on shipment movements if data gaps persist.

The lack of tracking capacity comes at a time when COVID-19 has already exposed the fragility of global supply chains used for everything from food to fashion.

The surge in demand for goods and the shortage of containers have created port disruptions around the world, making AIS data even more important in determining the shipping schedules of major suppliers in China.

Mainland China is home to six of the ten largest container ports in the world.

An employee of Elane Inc, a Beijing-based company that owns an AIS data platform with around 2.5 million users, told Reuters that “all transactions with foreign entities have recently been halted.”

“The changes happened last month, we only provide data to home users now,” said the employee, who asked not to be identified.

Reporting by Jonathan Saul in London and Eduardo Baptista in Hong Kong; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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