At a luncheon with some chemistry industry people, I brought up one of my new favorite websites: marinetraffic.com.
The site aggregates information from ship Automatic Identification System transponders and maps the position, heading, and speed of large ships all over the world. You can browse the site geographically or even track a particular ship. The site classifies data according to type of vessel—tanker, cargo, etc. And if you click on a ship’s icon on the map, you can get the size of the vessel and even pictures that have been uploaded to the site.
I have been playing with the site at my Staten Island home, looking at a map of Lower New York Bay on the screen and then running to the beach across the street to see the ships in person.
Shipspotting has always been a hobby of mine, but this site could provide some serious business information. I have heard stories over the years about oil tankers moored off the coast waiting for oil prices to climb before heading into port. I told a neighbor who exports chickens to Poti, Georgia, about it.
My lunch companions where pretty interested in what I had to say about the site. They started asking questions and writing things down on paper—not the sort of thing that I am accustomed to as a reporter. One of the companions, a purchaser at a major chemical firm, even remarked that he wouldn’t be lied to anymore by suppliers with false promises of when shipments will arrive.
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