Contribution of real time shipping data to food security

19 December 20234 min reading

Exploring the nexus between real-time shipping data and global food security, the International Grains Council (IGC) hosted a seminar in London, emphasizing the pivotal role of accurate information in ensuring resilient supply chains and monitoring food security. Participants discussed the benefits of real-time shipping information, particularly using the Automatic Identification System (AIS) and International Maritime Organisation ship identification numbers, in responding to disruptive market events and guiding infrastructure investments. The seminar laid the groundwork for future discussions on expanding the application of real-time shipping data for enhanced global trade insights and improved food security measures.

On 4 December 2023, the International Grains Council (IGC), hosted the seminar “International grains, oilseeds and rice trade: improving the availability of real time information” at the House of Japan in London with the support from the Japanese government. This event gathered representatives of leading shipping data providers, port, and freight industries, exporting companies, innovative market data platforms, freight analysts, as well as international organisations and embassies. Agricultural Counsellor at the Embassy of Japan, Eriko Komiya, opened the event stating: “As the G7 Presidency this year, Japan has prioritised food security as an issue of concern. Japan is supporting the IGC in strengthening its efforts to collect and analyse grain trade data which contributes global food security, for example by establishing a mechanism for sharing grain distribution information.”

Participants noted constantly improving availability and reliability of real time shipping information based on the Automatic Identification System (AIS) and International Maritime Organisation ship identification numbers. While the expanded use of modelling allows remaining data gaps to be filled, manual analysis and inputs are still required, due to difficulties with determining the origin of some transhipped cargoes and retrieving commodity-specific information. Participants highlighted opportunities for improving the quality of real time shipping data via the incorporation of commodity- and freight-related information from innovative market platforms such as 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 (link:, 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 and the Agricultural Counselor for the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland at the US Embassy in London 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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