Kiel Trade Indicator

The Kiel Trade Indicator estimates the trade flows (imports and exports) of 75 countries and regions worldwide, as well as world trade as a whole. The world map shows an expected increase (green) or decrease (red) for the individual countries. Clicking on a country opens a graph with more details. Estimated are the unilateral trade flows of a country with the rest of the world. The Kiel Trade Indicator is updated around the 5th and 20th of each month.

+++ Next data update: October 6, 2022 +++

Data update Sep. 21, 2022

Congestion in container shipping is increasing slightly at a high level, with over 12 percent of all goods shipped worldwide currently at a standstill. Congestion in the North Sea is also growing again, with well over 2 percent of global freight capacity stuck there and unable to be loaded or unloaded. This means that in the waiting areas observed by the Kiel Institute, congestion in the North Sea remains the most serious. "A standstill of this magnitude is very unusual for the North Sea and puts a strain on the exchange of goods from Germany and the EU, especially with Asia," says Vincent Stamer, head of the Kiel Trade Indicator. 

In the Red Sea, the most important sea trade route between Europe and Asia, 16 percent fewer goods are currently being shipped than would be expected under normal circumstances. The negative values of the Kiel Trade Indicator for imports and especially exports from the EU in the month of September (month-on-month, price and seasonally adjusted) fit into the picture.

However, the congestion in the German Bight and thus off the ports of Hamburg and Bremerhaven is receding significantly. Only 7 container ships are still waiting for clearance, compared to 19 two weeks ago. "The situation in the German ports is easing, but the significant reduction in waiting ships is also partly due to the fact that they are now already anchored outside the German Bight waiting for the port call," says Stamer.

September 2022* 

      Export Import
Germany     - 0.4 % - 0.1 %
EU     - 4.1 % - 1.1 %
USA     ± 0.0 % - 0.2 %
China     + 0.9 % - 0.1 %
Russia     + 1.4 % + 0.3 %
Global trade + 1.0 %      

*Change month-on-month, price and seasonally adjusted.

Ship Data

The graph shows what percentage of global container ship cargo capacity is tied up and unable to be loaded or unloaded due to congestion in sea areas up to 500 kilometers from major ports worldwide. Calculations are made using real-time vessel position data and takes into account the technically possible maximum capacity of the container ships. Regions include Georgia and South Carolina (ports of Savannah and Charleston), Southern California (ports of Los Angeles/ Long Beach and San Diego), Hong Kong and Guangdong (ports of HK, Yantian, Shenzhen and Guangzhou), Shanghai and Zhejiang (esp. Shanghai, Ningbo-Zhoushan), North Sea (North Sea ports of the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and the UK).

The graph indicates the proportion of goods that are on waiting container ships. Calculations are made using real-time global vessel position data and include effective utilization of container ships from draught information.

The graph measures the summed capacity of container ships in the Red Sea and the Suez Canal on a daily basis. Due to the particular geographical location of the Red Sea, the shipping here reflects the trading activity between Europe and Asia. The expected value is calculated from the average of 2017 to 2019, scaled to 2020 and 2021 using past growth rates.

The graph shows the arriving container loads in comparison to the previous year at the three largest container ports of Russia (St. Petersburg at the Baltic Sea, Novorossiysk at the Black Sea, as well as Vladivostok at the Pacific) and the largest port of Ukraine, Odessa. The reductions of trade volumes are the result of the war in the Ukraine and sactions against Russia. The calculation employs container ship poitions data and takes the size and draught of the ship into consideration.

The graph measures the departing container load from the port of Shanghai and the remaining Chinese ports respectively, normalized to the beginning of the year. The overall trend of the Chinese ports serves as a benchmark for the port of Shanghai and illustrates the drop of departing goods due to the lockdown in Shanghai. The calculation employs container ship poitions data and takes the size and draught of the ship into consideration.

About the Kiel Trade Indicator

The Kiel Trade Indicator estimates trade flows (imports and exports) of 75 countries worldwide, the EU and world trade as a whole. Specifically, the estimates cover over 50 individual countries as well as regions such as the EU, sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, the Middle East or emerging Asia. It is based on the evaluation of ship movement data in real time. An algorithm programmed at the Kiel Institute uses artificial intelligence to analyze the data and translates the ship movements into nominal, seasonally adjusted growth figures compared with the previous month.

We update the data twice a month. Around the 20th (without press release) for the current and the following month and around the 5th (with press release) for the previous and the current month.

Arriving and departing ships are recorded for 500 ports worldwide. In addition, ship movements in 100 maritime regions are analyzed and the effective utilization of container ships is derived from draught information. Country-port correlations can be used to generate forecasts, even for countries without their own deep-sea ports.

Compared to previous leading trade indicators, the Kiel Trade Indicator is available much earlier, is much more comprehensive, relies on a uniquely large database using big data, and has a low statistical error by comparison. The algorithm of the Kiel Trade Indicator uses machine learning, so that the quality of the forecast continues to improve over time.

Methodology of the Kiel Trade Indicator

Kiel Trade Indicator Working Paper


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