Netted! Glasgow firm helps tackle illegal fishing, slavery and kidnap19th Dec '16
Tracking boats brings many benefits in Indonesia. Continuing the Routes to Growth series on trading in Asia, Tracey Boles hears how Traceall does it
Company: Traceall Global Trading in: Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines Sector: Fisheries tracking
Illegal fishing and people trafficking afflict many countries, among them Indonesia. Now an electronic log system developed by a Glasgow-based firm is helping the country crack down on such issues.
Traceall Global’s FishTrace system allows each catch to be logged by the captain on “eLog” software as it comes over the side of the boat. The catch is barcoded so it can be tracked from net to plate. Relevant information includes who caught it, where, when and how.
Onshore, the data is analysed. Governments, fishing vessels and fish processing plants can then establish that the fish have been “legally caught, by a legal crew in legal waters” – as Alan Steele, chief executive and co-founder of Traceall Global puts it.
“You have to have patience and try not to force order on people”
If fishermen cannot prove they caught the fish legally, they will be prevented from selling them or getting government fuel subsidies.
The eLogs have also become a tool in Indonesia’s fight against slavery. When boats are boarded by the Navy and coastguard in international waters, authorities can use Traceall Global’s registration schemes to verify who is on board, and to ascertain whether an individual is legitimate crew or an enslaved fisherman. Thousands have been freed.
Steele says: “It is not something we set out to achieve but is a welcome by-product of traceability. We can’t stop the trafficking but we assist in monitoring it.”
Traceall Global works with Intan Seafood, a large Indonesian fish processing plant located in Surabaya, which uses the technology to provide evidence of the provenance, sustainability and legality of products to export markets.
A fisheries pilot for the Indonesian government started in June 2016 as part of the country’s efforts to combat illegal fishing, which is costing it an estimated $20bn (£14bn) a year. While Intan can refuse to buy the fish, the government could withdraw fuel subsidies.
While its most utilised product in south-east Asia is for fisheries, Traceall Global also tracks other produce, people and assets.
Its Malaysian contract with telematics firm Gradient spans a range of industries including transport and sustainable palm oil. One project monitors buses to check they are being driven by the right person in the right way, along the right routes. Sometimes this stops the theft of vehicles.
In Kuala Lumpur, it works with an internet-based taxi company to track cars, monitoring location, the best routes, speed and fuel efficiency – in some cases preventing the kidnap of wealthy passengers.
Asia accounts for 20 per cent of turnover at Traceall Global and this is forecast to rise to 80 per cent within a year. Turnover, £1m in 2015, could be as much as £9m by next year as US sustainability legislation stipulating that all fish products must be traceable comes into force.
The journey so far hasn’t been smooth, however. Steele wishes he had set up a local team in Indonesia. He explains: “It is harder to do things remotely, although I spend half my time in Asia. I recommend having a local fixer who will take you through all the problems.” He now has a man on the ground in Asia, Kirk Evans.
Adapting to Asian cultures has been a challenge. “The culture is not as aggressive as in Europe. You have to have patience and try not to force order on people,” Steele says.
Modifications to the software Traceall Global uses in south-east Asia include using local languages – and colours. Malaysians are attracted to vibrant colours while Indonesians prefer the golds and browns of the Garuda eagle, their national emblem.
Steele has found his Asian customers to be much more willing than European ones to embrace new technologies. He says: “They are early adopters.”
The company, which employs 14 in Glasgow and four in Jakarta, will soon open an office in the Indonesian capital to keep up with expected growth there. It plans a Malaysian office, too.
Traceall Global is also working with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) on illegal fishing in the Philippines. It has set its sights on entering Vietnam and Myanmar and on developing a scaled down version of its technology for poor fisherman to access on an app.