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Portwatch data platform – monitor problems in world trade at the click of a mouse – News

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Portwatch data platform – monitor problems in world trade at the click of a mouse – News


Extreme weather has direct consequences for global trade. Portwatch is intended to show the effects on supply chains.

What is it about? Portwatch is a website that aims to show how extreme weather events such as storms, drought or floods affect global trade and the transport of goods. The platform is based on a huge amount of data. It continuously collects satellite data from 120,000 ships on the world‘s oceans and around 1,400 ports. It therefore covers 99 percent of maritime trade, which corresponds to a trade volume of around 14,000 billion US dollars.

What does Portwatch do? The data platform is watching current disruptions and analyzes their effects. This way you can observe what influence the limited use of the Panama Canal due to drought has on shipping and which transports are specifically affected. This shows what consequences this obstacle has for global supply chains.

Portwatch also simulates the impact of a weather event on supply chains. A cyclone in the Philippines has a direct impact on the region’s ports and on a number of countries that rely on supplies. A problem in Asia has a slightly delayed direct impact on ports in Africa or island states in the Pacific.

Legend: The excerpt from Portwatch shows the port of Rotterdam and the effects of a possible closure of the port due to a storm on ports in the region or in other parts of the world. Port watch

How is Switzerland involved? Switzerland co-financed Portwatch. The platform is a joint project between the IMF and the University of Oxford. The platform was made possible through start-up funding from the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs Seco as part of the IMF’s Climate Innovation Challenge 2022. Many international institutions such as the World Bank, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the UN contributed to the development.

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The International Monetary Fund IMF

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The International Monetary Fund IWF is a special agency of the UN. The IMF grants loans to countries that are in financial difficulties. The granting of these loans is usually linked to strict financial and economic policy requirements. Accordingly, it is in its interest if potentially endangered countries are made aware of possible dangers from extreme weather events at an early stage.

Alarm emails inform retailers, port managers or government authorities if, for example, a storm causes disruption and shows who will be affected, when and how. This allows them to take countermeasures or organize alternative delivery routes.

The consequences of prolonged supply chain disruptions became apparent during the pandemic. Products were suddenly missing or significantly more expensive. In poorer countries this can lead to existential problems.

Pursuing Russian tankers

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The IMF used Portwatch to track the journeys of Russian tankers. Based on the ships’ routes since 2019, it has been proven that Russian oil is no longer flowing primarily to Europe, the USA or Japan because of the sanctions. New buyers are primarily India, China and Turkey.

Who uses the platform? Everyone can use Portwatch. It is free to use, the data is clearly presented, and the graphics are easy to read. Above all, those countries that cannot afford expensive analysis infrastructure but are dependent on cheap imports should benefit from the platform. In addition to these states in the global south, island states should also receive important information quickly. They are particularly affected by increasingly extreme weather conditions.

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What can Portwatch do? Climate change can also be simulated with Portwatch. The data platform has incorporated climate scenarios from the University of Oxford into its data sets. This means that the consequences of different climate scenarios on individual countries can be simulated. The platform shows: While cyclones in Asia primarily influence supply chains, on the European North Sea coast it is primarily river floods.

Caption: Containers for export are loaded onto a cargo ship at a port in Qingdao in the Chinese province of Shandong. (September 8, 2016) Keystone/Chinatopix via AP

Portwatch calculates costs for the failures of corresponding ports. The port of Rouen near Paris 2050 will have to expect additional annual costs of more than 200 million euros. In more vulnerable countries the costs are likely to be massively higher.

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