Diagram shows the dramatic decline in ship tracking data from China

  • The number of AIS signals from ships in Chinese waters has dipped by 85% in less than a month.
  • Shipping companies use the data for a number of purposes, including planning shipping routes.
  • The decline in data may exacerbate the current supply chain crisis.

Ships in Chinese waters have disappeared from tracking systems used by the maritime industry, a development that could exacerbate the global supply chain crisis.

The automatic identification system (AIS) – which relies on ships to send data to stations along the coast or via satellites – has witnessed a dip in the signals it receives in recent weeks.

Data from the provider of market intelligence and valuations VesselsValue shows that the number of signals in Chinese waters falls 85% in less than a month – from 100,000 a day on 28 October to 15,000 a day on 17 November.

Graph showing dropouts in China's AIS ship data in November 2021.

Graph showing dropouts in China’s AIS ship data in November 2021.

Vessel value


The sharp drop comes after China’s privacy law came into force on November 1. The new rules regulate how domestic and foreign organizations collect and export the country’s data.

There are no specific guidelines for shipping data due to the new rules, but some domestic providers in China have stopped providing information to foreign companies due to the law, Reuters reported earlier this month.

Shipping companies use the data for a wide range of purposes, including planning shipping routes, logistical operations and congestion analysis.

As these signals typically provide the greatest data coverage and insight into shipping in Chinese ports, the decline in these data could significantly affect the visibility of the ocean supply chain across China, one of the world’s largest trading countries, VesselsValue chief trading analyst Charlotte Cook said in an email. statement to Insider.

“The increased availability and volume of AIS data in recent years has become something that the industry is largely dependent on, enabling shipping companies to predict ship movements in advance, track seasonal trends and improve port efficiency,” Cook said. .

“Ultimately, the significant reductions we are seeing in the number of vessels signaling in China will reduce the ability to accurately monitor vessel activity, and this could have spill-over effects on already pressured global supply chains,” she added.

“If this continues, there will be a huge impact on global visibility, especially as we enter the busy Christmas period with supply chains already facing huge problems around the world,” said Anastassis Touros, AIS Network Tracking Team Leader and maritime intelligence service MarineTraffic, told Reuters.

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