China’s Data Law Adds to Global Browsing Disruption

By Jonathan Saul and Eduardo Baptista

LONDON/HONG KONG, Nov 17 (Reuters) – Vessels in Chinese waters are disappearing from tracking systems following the introduction of a new data law in China, frustrating efforts to reduce bottlenecks strangulation that is rumbling the global economy, according to three maritime sources directly affected.

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

Although there are no specific guidelines on shipping data 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 insight into freight volumes and helps optimize logistics by predicting congestion so companies can make key decisions on shipping routes.

MarineTraffic, a leading global provider of ship tracking and marine intelligence, is among foreign companies currently experiencing gaps in vital shipment tracking data from China, where much of the traffic originates. global supply of manufactured goods 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 period with supply chains already facing huge problems all over the world,” he said. said Anastassis Touros, AIS Network Team Leader at MarineTraffic.

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

AIS data from

The so-called Automatic Identification System (AIS) provides location positions on ships. It is used by other ships, ports and many other organizations from banks and merchants for search and rescue operations.

From Oct. 28 to Nov. 15, the level of land shipping data in all Chinese waters fell by 90%, according to market intelligence and ratings provider VesselsValue.

“As China is a major importer of coal and iron ore and one of the world’s leading container exporters, this decline in position data could lead to significant challenges with ocean supply chain visibility,” said said Charlotte Cook, chief business 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 were set by the department’s headquarters in Beijing. Calls to the Beijing office of the Maritime Security Administration went unanswered.

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, had no comment when contacted.

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

It was unclear how AIS users will be able to keep tabs on shipping 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 sharp increase in demand for goods and the shortage of containers have created port disruptions around the worldmaking AIS data even more important in determining shipping schedules from 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)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2021.