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How to Track Ships: GIJN’s Latest Resource Round-Up

At Sea: GIJN’s latest resource offers up a comprehensive list for tracking ships. Photo: Kinsey on UnsplashMore than 90,000 commercial ships make up the world’s commercial fleet, their locations closely tracked and the resulting data available for free.

GIJN has compiled a comprehensive list of resources to track ships (including big yachts and fishing boats).

It’s possible to learn where ships came from and where they are going in near real time. Also, you can research ship owners, get information about the ships and see pictures of them. Tools also exist to follow the movements of the cargo containers they carry.

Just for the wow factor, click to see this world map that reveals the magnitude of ocean shipping.

Read a description of how ships are tracked through the use of the automatic identification system (AIS). AIS signals from some 180,000 vessels are monitored daily via land-based stations and satellites.

While much information can be obtained for free, subscriptions are often required to acquire more sophisticated material, such as very current or historic information. The options range, as do the prices, but in very general terms, a subscription may run to a few hundred dollars a month. Some of the vendors are open to working with journalists, to provide images and more.

Tracking Data Used in Variety of Ways

Mapping Marine Traffic: The global traffic map shows just how busy our oceans are. Screenshot

Ship-tracking data has been critical for reporting on collisions at sea, both on a spot news basis and in investigative reporting. For example, here’s a look-back by The New York Times at a 2017 crash between a US Navy ship and a commercial ship near Singapore. MarineTraffic supplied data for the story.

Investigative reporters have found many other uses for shipping data, for example:

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