Using AIS position data to create a map of global trade
As its data needs grew, MariTrace partnered with exactEarth to provide the highly accurate and persistent data it needs to populate its platform and enable the best possible decision-making for its clients.
Founded 10 years ago, MariTrace was created to help shipowners and charterers assess and evaluate the risks of maritime piracy using calculations of which vessels were most likely to be targeted.
Drawing on their tech industry backgrounds, the original MariTrace team quickly realised that the industry would benefit from better data on current vessel positions and, using AIS, built an interface to track both the vessels themselves and map piracy-affected areas.
What they found was that many shipping companies lacked detailed data on their own vessel movements and had little to no idea of what their competitors were doing, so they created a portal that allows them to track all vessels and, by extension, understand commodity movements.
The key to its success was understanding that AIS data could be leveraged to provide shippers, carriers, insurers, and financiers with dynamic business insights and, in the process build a map of global trade.
Commodity trading is a multi-billion-dollar business but one that has traditionally relied on private networks of information. The advent of AIS as a source of data available to any trader meant that vessel operators and their customers could see how often a given vessel had called at or left a port and, by analysing the vessel type, could establish how much tonnage was being delivered.
MariTrace has created a macro-level view of the global economy, providing data on imports and exports from major producers and consumers and the impact on trade balances and exchange rates.
It is possible to gain further insights, for example, applying a high level of granularity to track the automobile production cycle from the delivery of iron ore through steel production to the movement of car carriers delivering finished products.
With multiple vessel tracking platforms available, MariTrace differentiates itself from those providing simple position or movements data with a full suite of products available through a single interface. With huge volumes of AIS data available to potential users, the key is to be able to provide an interpretation that puts actionable business intelligence in the hands of users.
MariTrace defines itself as a provider of high-end analytics rather than volume data, with increasing amounts of bespoke analysis demanded. MariTrace helps clients to solve problems that impact their bottom line by hundreds of thousands of dollars.
To enable MariTrace to keep its promises, exactEarth provides two premium data streams, the exactAIS Platinum and Emerald services.
The Platinum Service was created in response to the ever-increasing demand for a real-time, highly persistent, satellite- based global asset tracking service. Combining 65 real-time AIS payloads onboard the Low Earth Orbit Iridium NEXT satellite constellation with a global network of terrestrial ground stations, the Platinum Service delivers the most up-to- date and accurate view of the world’s shipping activities available today.
An average of 190,000 vessels are tracked per day, providing an average of 45 million position reports with an average vessel update rate of less than five minutes and less than one minute of the coverage gap.
exactAIS Emerald combines 17 AIS payloads from the Iridium NEXT constellation to deliver an up-to-date, accurate and global view of the world’s shipping activities. An average of 160,000 vessels are tracked per day, providing an average of 15 million position reports with an average vessel update rate of less than 30 minutes and less than 10 minutes of coverage gap.
MariTrace’s partnership with exactEarth means that its users can receive data updated virtually ‘as it happens’, though most will choose to receive updates provided every 24 hours. The result is a complete analysis of the activity in any given shipping sector by region, enabling MariTrace clients to take advantage of first-mover trade insights and understand where and how their markets may move.
This extends beyond the calculation of commodity loading and unloading to container movements and passenger ship itineraries. For example, in 2021, the company was able to provide some of the first indications that cruise ship movements were increasing as vessels were re-positioned from layup to service and which markets were seeing the fastest pickup.
Leveraging exactEarth AIS data means MariTrace can work across all areas of maritime trade but serving such a diverse customer base means it needs quality it can rely on 100% of the time. Because exactEarth’s data is collected and delivered via dedicated satellite payloads, there are no dropouts in coverage.
True to its origins, MariTrace is not resting on its laurels and is examining ways in which exactEarth services can support the expansion of the business as part of its future strategy. Having built a system that can be used to analyse multi- billion-dollar trades on a global basis, the company is fielding more and more requests for specialist data.
This ranges from the burgeoning offshore wind energy sector to the expansion of cable communications, markets which, while quite different, demand pinpoint accuracy. exactEarth data can also be used to track potentially illegal, sanctions- busting ship to ship cargo transfers.
The time and effort spent to develop the MariTrace platform mean the company still treats every project personally; while there are bigger players in the market, the company values passion as well as precision.
Keeping every client happy means MariTrace can’t afford to drop a single ship position, so exactEarth must work to the same standard. Getting AIS position data is relatively easy – deriving valuable insights from that data calls for a high-quality source and obsessive attention to detail.