New Chinese data law adds to global shipping disruption

The introduction of a new data law in China has resulted in ships in Chinese waters disappearing from tracking systems, reports Reuters. The interruption in data flow has been hampering efforts to ease the supply bottlenecks that are impacting economies worldwide.

China’s Personal Information Protection Law came into effect on November 1st. It has added to a raft of new rules designed to increase government control over how domestic and foreign organisations collect and export China’s data.

Although there are no specific guidelines on shipping data in the regulations, some domestic providers in China have stopped giving information to foreign companies as a direct consequence of the new rules, three sources told Reuters on Wednesday November 17th.

The data provide information on cargo volumes and help optimize logistics by predicting where congestion is occurring / will occur, enabling companies to make key decisions on shipping routes.

Anastassis Touros, AIS network team leader at MarineTraffic, said that “if this continues, there will be a big impact in terms of global visibility, especially as we come into the busy Christmas period with supply chains already facing huge problems all over the world,” adding that “all of a sudden we do not know when ships are leaving and from where, and we also don’t have the full picture on port congestion which AIS offers us.”

From October 28th to November 15th the level of terrestrial shipping data across all Chinese waters was estimated to have dropped by 90%, according to VesselsValue.

Head trade analyst Charlotte Cook said that “with China being a major importer of coal and iron ore and one of the main container exporters globally, this decline in positional data could cause significant challenges concerning ocean supply chain visibility”.

Two other sources put the drop in terrestrial AIS data at 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 Maritime Safety Administration’s Beijing office were not answered.

An employee at Beijing-based Elane Inc, which owns an AIS data platform with around 2.5 million users, told Reuters that “all dealings with foreign entities were recently halted. The changes happened last month; we only supply data to domestic users now”.