IGC seminar explores the role of real-time shipping data to food security

11 December 20233 min reading

In a seminar held on December 4, 2023, at the House of Japan in London, the International Grains Council (IGC) spearheaded discussions on leveraging real-time shipping data to bolster global food security. 

Co-hosted with the Japanese government, the event brought together key players from shipping data providers, port and freight industries, market data platforms, and international organizations. With a focus on enhancing the availability and application of real-time information, participants explored innovative solutions and highlighted the pivotal role of data in building resilient supply chains.

Eriko Komiya, Agricultural Counsellor at the Embassy of Japan, set the tone by emphasizing Japan's commitment to prioritizing food security during its G7 Presidency. Japan is actively supporting the IGC's efforts to enhance the collection and analysis of grain trade data, aiming to establish mechanisms for sharing critical grain distribution information. 

Participants acknowledged the advancements in real-time shipping information based on the Automatic Identification System (AIS) and International Maritime Organisation ship identification numbers. While modeling has helped bridge data gaps, challenges persist in determining the origin of some transhipped cargoes and retrieving commodity-specific information. The seminar spotlighted opportunities to enhance real-time shipping data quality through collaboration with innovative market platforms like Covantis and Shipnext.

The IGC shared its experience in using real time data for the analysis of grains supply and demand, calculating freight rates, assessing the consequences of disruptive market events and monitoring of food security. The latter is conducted via the IGC-WTO wheat dashboard launched in May 2023, with an additional IGC project spanning other grains and oilseeds to be launched in early 2024.

The representative of the Port of Vancouver, Canada’s largest port handling grains and oilseeds cargoes stressed the importance of real time data for building resilient supply chains, including inland logistics and port operations. In light of more frequent disruptive events, real time data plays a pivotal role in facilitating the recovery of cargo flows after interruptions, as well as in guiding infrastructure investment decisions, while also supporting efforts to enhance fuel efficiency and decarbonise the shipping industry.

Participants discussed prospective areas for the use of real time shipping data, including the simulation related to policies for carbon shipping emissions, such as the tax policy discussed by the EU and due to come into force on 1 January 2024.

Containerised trade was identified as one of the key areas for improvement, given the poor availability of container-specific information, despite the fact that around 10% of grains, oilseeds and pulses and 60% of global rice trade is done via containers. While the smart container technology, presented by the Mediterranean Shipping Company, could help improve tracking of containerised goods and enhance data availability, the still limited application of such technologies and sensitivity of commercial information remain the main obstacles for expanded data sharing.

Addressing the audience, Anita Katial, the IGC Chair noted: “With roughly one-half of seaborne grains and oilseeds deliveries taking more than 30 days, dry bulk fleet can be viewed as a type of short-term storage. Around 50 million tonnes of grains, oilseeds and rice is afloat around the world at any point in time, making the analysis of real time shipping data a matter of food security”. 

The seminar has laid the foundation for a wider discussion on the ways to expand the availability and the application of real time shipping data, with further events on related topics envisaged in the year ahead.

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