What Can Ship Identification Systems Tell Us About Development Policy?

Maritime transportation is the life force of the world’s economy. Between 1990 and 2013 worldwide maritime trade more than doubled, with total volumes in 2013 reaching nearly 9.6 billion tons. The UN Country Team in Indonesia and Universitas Gadjah Mada have teamed up to analyze port network evolution across Indonesia. The dataset is global so if a similar analysis is of interest to other UN Country Teams please get in touch.

Automatic Identification System (AIS) Data

The global marine vessel identification system, called AIS, is an automatic tracking system used on ships and by vessel traffic services to improve safety at sea. The International Maritime Organization requires AIS to be fitted aboard international voyaging ships with 300 or more gross tonnage, and all passenger ships regardless of size.

Alongside its practical application to maritime safety, AIS is useful for research on a variety of topics, from studying rescue patterns of migrants and refugees to understanding risk factors to marine ecosystems from shipping.

Based on a request from the Ministry of Development Planning in Indonesia and an initial analysis of port network connectivity using AIS data, conducted by a team of inter-disciplinary researchers at a Research Dive hosted by UN Global Pulse Lab Jakarta, we plan to conduct further analysis using the dataset with a view to informing maritime development policy.

Indonesia Port Network Analysis

As an archipelagic state, the Government of Indonesia envisions a greater role for the country as a global maritime axis and is working to achieve this through several maritime development plans, including Tol Laut.

To understand better the opportunities and challenges connected to this ambition, over the coming months we will:

  • Model and analyze the maritime network based on AIS data;
  • Create summary statistics of ports in Indonesia, including the number of ships processed by ports, average waiting times at ports and shipping times between ports; and
  • Predict how the maritime network in Indonesia will evolve given specific scenarios, including with and without Tol Laut.

Beyond this, we have a few ideas to look at network resilience to storms and cyber attacks (with MIT) and risk factors to marine ecosystems from shipping. If any of the above is of interest to other UN Country Teams, please get in touch as the AIS dataset is global so the analysis can be expanded relatively easily.


This blog was originally published on United Nations Development Group’s Silo Fighters page, on 9 August 2018.

Pulse Lab Jakarta is grateful for the generous support from the Government of Australia.

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