China shuts down its cargo ship tracking system –

from Guido Santevecchi

Since the end of October, the container ships have practically disappeared from the screens of global trackers, useful for regulating traffic. A blackout decided by the Beijing authorities.

Where is the fleet of cargo ships operating in the Chinese seas? Most of the container ships in the ports and territorial waters of China have disappeared from the screens of the global trackers, the maritime traffic locators that provide maps useful for navigation and sorting of ships thanks to the identification signals of the units. Analysts have begun to record a data crash at the end of October: since then signals sent by ships in Chinese waters have dropped from 15 million a day to just one million. The international monitoring system is called Automatic Identification System (AIS) and was developed to contribute to the safety of navigation, avoiding collisions between large ships and coordinating rescue operations in the event of accidents at sea.

The Automatic Identification System allows ships to send position, course and speed data to shore-based stations via high frequency radio signals; if a ship out of terrestrial coverage can send the information via satellite. The AIS has also and now become above all a tool to improve supply chains, commercial supply chains, reporting traffic near ports and waiting times for docking and container loading and unloading operations. Now however, ships in Chinese waters are almost invisible on AIS, which in the world’s second largest economy has practically stopped working. According to Western experts, a blackout decided by the Beijing authorities is underway.

November 1 in China came into effect the Law on the protection of personal information which requires companies that process data to obtain government approval before moving them out of Chinese territory. The new law reflects China’s concern that Big Data can end up in the hands of foreign governments and was designed to first control the activities of groups such as Alibaba and Tencent, which operate in ecommerce and messaging by gathering a mountain of details on individuals and industries. China’s privacy law does not mention ship trafficBut controllers may have turned off the Automatic Identification System signals due to overzealousness, notes Anastassis Touros, head of AIS data analysis for MarineTraffic.

It could be a specific directive: the Beijing state television observed that the intelligence obtained from these data on ships in Chinese waters it can damage the country’s economic security and the question must be evaluated.

November 24, 2021 (change November 24, 2021 | 12:23)

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