Global Shipping Watch brings a new level of analytical depth, accountability and transparency to shipping and international supply chains. The platform introduces a pilot version covering large trading countries such as Brazil and the US.

“The combination of detailed cargo data and vessel operations data brings a very powerful product and shines a light on what has long been a blind spot. Companies, investors, governments and research organizations can now use the data to inform decisions and actions to improve maritime shipping logistics and decrease emissions.”

— Javier Godar, SEI Senior Researcher

Global Shipping Watch combines a detailed description of cargo in individual ships, including ownership information, with data on ship movements and operations obtained from satellites and land stations.

With more than 80% of the world’s traded goods transported on oil-burning seafaring freighters, the sector is responsible for nearly 3% of the world’s annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (International Maritime Organization, 2021). That is more than the aviation sector and constitutes a large share of air pollution in coastal areas. The importance of maritime shipping emissions is expected to increase as trade flows increase, and as other sectors are so far comparatively more successful in reducing them.

The UN body International Maritime Organization (IMO) has committed to cut total annual greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping by at least 50% from 2008 levels by 2050. Experts say this target is not aligned with achieving the temperature goals of the Paris Agreement. Spurred by growing pressure from consumers, traders, retailers, financial institutions and governments, the maritime sector is making ambitious commitments, including the Getting to Zero Coalition and Poseidon Principles , to curb shipping emissions and reduce fuel consumption.

“So far, tackling shipping emissions has been hampered by the absence of reliable data, baselines, and emissions monitoring capabilities. One can hardly improve what is not adequately measured, monitored and benchmarked, ideally by independent third-parties.”

— Javier Godar

Global Shipping Watch (GSW) is an open-access demonstration platform led by SEI and partners UMAS and Simumatik that fills information gaps and provides access to key data. The platform:

  • contributes to corporate carbon reporting on scope 3 emissions (indirect emissions that occur in a company’s value chain)
  • helps consumers to understand the real carbon footprint of their choices
  • benchmarks the performance of accountable supply-chain actors (carriers, vessels, export companies, and countries) by setting credible baselines
  • provides information for more efficient chartering operations, modelling improved shipping operations and more efficient global maritime architecture
  • enables better analysis of supply chain vulnerabilities, bottlenecks and commercial opportunities.

Global Shipping Watch currently includes data on all the maritime exports and imports of the US, representing about one sixth of world trade in goods, as well as the exports of countries such as Brazil, Chile, Ghana, Indonesia and Peru in 2019. The ambition is to increase the geographical and temporal coverage of the platform to include most global maritime trade.

Methodology

Global Shipping Watch links detailed cargo data and emissions per vessel, at scale. The underlying peer-reviewed methodology (Schim van der Loeff et al. 2018) consists of five steps. First, detailed cargo data per vessel is acquired and standardized.

Billions of data points from the Automatic Information System (AIS), a global tracking system that uses transceiver devices installed on all vessels over 300 gross tonnage, are matched to cargo data by looking for common recorded departure port, date and destination of each and every vessel.

The platform’s algorithms then segment the AIS signals into individual “journeys” that span each vessel trajectory from cargo loading to download.

For each vessel journey, greenhouse gas emissions are calculated using the methodology of the Fourth IMO Greenhouse Study endorsed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The method (IMO 2021) combines AIS operational data (heading, speed and draft) and vessel technical specifications (dead weight, design speed, engine power and fuel consumption rate).

Emissions are allocated proportionally per cargo weight and value to the cargo types, cargo ownership, countries of export/import, companies operating the vessels and countries of flag.

GSW was developed within the research project Spatially Explicit Analysis of Cargo Associated Maritime Shipping Emissions (SEA-CASE), which was partly funded by the Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket).