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Mr. Serkan Arslanalp, Mr. Robin Koepke, and Jasper Verschuur
This paper proposes an easy-to-follow approach to track merchandise trade using vessel data and applies it to Pacific island countries. Pacific islands rely heavily on imports and maritime transport for trade. They are also highly vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters that pose risks to ports and supply chains. Using satellite-based vessel tracking data from the UN Global Platform, we construct daily indicators of port and trade activity for Pacific island countries. The algorithm significantly advances estimation techniques of previous studies, particularly by employing ways to overcome challenges with the estimation of cargo payloads, using detailed information on shipping liner schedules to validate port calls, and applying country-specific information to define port boundaries. The approach can complement and help fill gaps in official data, provide early warning signs of turning points in economic activity, and assist policymakers and international organizations to monitor and provide timely responses to shocks (e.g., COVID-19).
Mr. Serkan Arslanalp, Mr. Robin Koepke, and Jasper Verschuur

to overcome challenges with the estimation of cargo payloads, using detailed information on shipping liner schedules ( Box 2 ) to validate port calls, and applying country-specific information to define port boundaries. Unlike previous studies, we do not need to make assumptions on ballast water or assume cargo weight changes linearly with the ship’s draft. Finally, the results can be replicated transparently by other researchers using data from the UN Global Platform, unlike other studies which are based on proprietary data from commercial data providers that make

Mr. Serkan Arslanalp, Mr. Robin Koepke, and Jasper Verschuur

Pacific island countries. The algorithm significantly advances estimation techniques of previous studies, particularly by employing ways to overcome challenges with the estimation of cargo payloads, using detailed information on shipping liner schedules to validate port calls, and applying country-specific information to define port boundaries. The approach can complement and help fill gaps in official data, provide early warning signs of turning points in economic activity, and assist policymakers and international organizations to monitor and provide timely responses

International Monetary Fund. Research Dept.

the movement of goods across the globe? What are the benefits and challenges of using big data to produce real-time information about trade? In what ways can countries use this source to complement traditional sources of trade statistics? To answer these questions, a team of IMF economists employed a more structured version of the AIS data, containing “port-calls data.” Port-calls data combine ship positions and port boundaries to track the arrival and departure of ships in a port. The economists used Malta-an island state in the European Union, with a population

International Monetary Fund. Research Dept.
It has been two years since the trade tensions erupted and not only captured policymakers’ but also the research community’s attention. Research has quickly zoomed in on understanding trade war rhetoric, tariff implementation, and economic impacts. The first article in the December 2019 issue sheds light on the consequences of the recent trade barriers.
Mr. Serkan Arslanalp, Mr. Marco Marini, and Ms. Patrizia Tumbarello
Vessel traffic data based on the Automatic Identification System (AIS) is a big data source for nowcasting trade activity in real time. Using Malta as a benchmark, we develop indicators of trade and maritime activity based on AIS-based port calls. We test the quality of these indicators by comparing them with official statistics on trade and maritime statistics. If the challenges associated with port call data are overcome through appropriate filtering techniques, we show that these emerging “big data” on vessel traffic could allow statistical agencies to complement existing data sources on trade and introduce new statistics that are more timely (real time), offering an innovative way to measure trade activity. That, in turn, could facilitate faster detection of turning points in economic activity. The approach could be extended to create a real-time worldwide indicator of global trade activity.
Mr. Serkan Arslanalp, Mr. Marco Marini, and Ms. Patrizia Tumbarello

find a departure, we eliminate the unmatched port call. We find 418 unmatched port calls (less than 1 percent of the sample), which are noted for all types of ships. Stay in the harbor outside reasonable range for trade activity. The third rule eliminates calls of ships that remained in the port boundaries for only a short time (less than five hours) or for too long (more than 60 hours). 7 Available port statistics for Malta indicate that almost 80 percent of cargo vessels stay less than one day, and very few exceed three days (Table 2.12 of National Statistics