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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. Marco Marini, and Ms. Patrizia Tumbarello

; we also emphasize the advantages and limitations of this approach. In particular, we note that vessel data can be used to measure trade in goods (not services); trade volume (not value); gross trade (not re-exports); and trade by broad groups; rather than specific goods (beyond such homogeneous goods as oil or natural gas). Moreover, we highlight that vessel data could be a good proxy of trade volume in goods when the share of seaborne trade in total merchandise trade is high (in volume terms) and when shipments at each port tend to be in one direction or another

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

information can be backtracked or imputed in most cases, given the wealth of information in the AIS data (as described in the next section). For any remaining cases, if measurement errors are idiosyncratic, they should wash out when aggregated due to the law of large numbers. B. Methodology Building on Arslanalp et al. (2019) and Verschuur et al. (2020) , we develop an algorithm to estimate trade flows for Pacific island countries based on vessel data. The algorithm significantly advances estimation techniques of previous studies, particularly by employing ways

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

(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the IMF, its Executive Board, or IMF management. Abstract 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

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.