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Interactive ship map offers detailed insight into trading patterns

Researchers at UCL Energy Institute (UCL EI) in London have created a new interactive map that plots 250 million data points to precisely show the movements of the world’s commercial shipping fleet over the course of the year 2012.

{mprestriction ids="1,2"}The interactive shipping map has been developed by UCL EI and London-based data visualisation studio Kiln, and was funded by the European Climate Foundation.

The group used the methodology developed for the Third IMO GHG Study in 2014 in combination with global AIS data to estimate the movement and emissions of five different ship types for display in the map, based on hundreds of millions of individually recorded ship positions.

The result is an extraordinarily detailed demonstration of shipping’s global reach. Based only on ship movements and without a background map, the world’s coastlines are clearly defined, with wide variation in ship activity: from the busy East China Sea to the relative quiet of Somalia’s piracy afflicted waters, and on to growing traffic in the Arctic and Antarctic.

The map also clearly shows the importance of shipping routes through the canals linking different bodies of water, such as the Panama Canal, opened a century ago to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean, and the even older and busier Suez Canal which saw 17,000 transits in 2012 alone.

Visitors to the website can distinguish between five different ship types – container ships, tankers, dry bulk, gas bulk and vehicle carriers – and examine their different trading patterns.

UCL EI researchers were also able to compute the CO2 emissions for each observed hour in 2012, taking AIS data showing location and speed of ships and cross-checking it with another database on vessel characteristics, such as engine type and hull measurements.

Kiln took the resulting dataset and visualised it with WebGL on top of a specially created base map, which shows bathymetry (ocean depth) as well as continents and major rivers.

For each ship type as well as for the entire global fleet, the map displays the freight carried and CO2 emitted by the ships. Emissions from international shipping for 2012 were estimated to be 796 million tonnes CO2 which is more than the whole of the UK, Canada or Brazil emit in a year. This number can be further broken down into 2.18 million tonnes CO2 per day or 90,868 tonnes CO2 per hour.  

To view the interactive map visit {/mprestriction}

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