A Global Assessment of Night Lights as an Indicator for Shipping Activity in Anchorage Areas

Semion Polinov, Revital Bookman, Noam Levin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Accurate information on port shipping activities is critical for monitoring global and local traffic flows and assessing the state of development of the maritime industry. Such information is necessary for managers and analysts to make strategic decisions and monitor the maritime industry in achieving management goals. In this study, we used monthly night light (NTL) images of the Suomi National Polar-Orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) Day/Night Band, between 2012 and 2020, to study the night lights emitted by ships in ports’ anchorage areas, as an indicator for shipping activity in anchorage areas and ports. Using a dataset covering 601 anchorage areas from 97 countries, we found a strong correspondence between NTL data and shipping metrics at the country level (n = 97), such as container port throughput (Rs = 0.84, p < 0.01) and maximum cargo carried by ships (Rs = 0.66, p < 0.01), as well as a strong correlation between the number of anchorage points and the NTL values in anchorage areas across the world (Rs = 0.69, p < 0.01; n = 601). The high correspondence levels of the VIIRS NTL data with various shipping indicators show the potential of using NTL data to analyze the spatio-temporal dynamic changes of the shipping activity in anchorage areas, providing convenient open access and a nor-malized assessment method for shipping industry parameters that are often lacking.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1079
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: S.P. is grateful to the Department of Marine Geoscience, the Maritime Policy and Strategy Research Center (HMS), and the Wydra Institute of Shipping and Aviation Research of the University of Haifa in Israel for their financial support.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the authors. Li-censee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Anchorage area
  • Nighttime lights
  • Shipping
  • Spatial analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (all)


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