Maersk and IBM debut blockchain platform for global shipping industry
Logistics company Maersk and technology company IBM have introduced an open blockchain platform, called TradeLens, to digitise the global shipping trade. The pair said 94 organisations are already involved, or have agreed to participate, including 20 port and terminal operators across the globe.
TradeLens employs blockchain-based smart contracts to establish a single shared view of shipping transactions without compromising details, privacy or confidentiality.
Shippers, shipping lines, freight forwarders, port and terminal operators, inland transportation and customs authorities can interact more efficiently through real-time access to shipping data and shipping documents, including IoT and sensor data ranging from temperature control to container weight.
Its ClearWay document module, released under a beta programme, enables importers and exporters, customs brokers, and third parties like Customs, and other government and non-government agencies, to collaborate in business processes and information exchanges, backed by a secure audit trail.
The solution seeks to promote more efficient and secure global trade, bringing together parties to support information sharing and transparency, and spur innovation, they said. The go-to-market model for the platform is a revised version of their proposed blockchain joint venture, announced in January, and exists as “an extension” of their collaboration agreement, they said.
More than 154 million shipping events have so far been captured on the platform, which has been in trial mode for 12 months, including data for the arrival times of vessels and container “gate-in”, and documents such as customs releases, commercial invoices and bills of lading.
The volume of data on the platform is growing at a rate of one million events per day, they said.
They claimed TradeLens has, during trial, reduced the transit time of a shipment of packaging materials to a production line in the US by 40 per cent, avoiding thousands of dollars in cost.
Supply chain operatives reckon they can reduce the steps taken to locate the whereabouts of shipping containers from 10 steps and five people to one step and one person, they said.
More than $4 trillion in goods are shipped each year; 80 per cent of goods consumers use daily are carried by the ocean shipping industry. The cost of global trade is estimated at $1.8 trillion annually, with potential savings from more efficient process of around 10 per cent.
The cost of the required trade documentation, commonly shared through the EDI systems, is estimated to reach one fifth of the actual physical transportation costs. By reducing barriers within the international supply chain, global trade could increase by nearly 15 per cent.
Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president for global Industries, solutions and blockchain at IBM said: “Success with the technology rests on a single factor – bringing the entire ecosystem together around a common approach that benefits all participants equally. Our work with Maersk and other enterprises has shown that blockchain can be used to form a strong, connected network in which all members gain by sharing important data.”
Mike White, TradeLens leader for Maersk, said: “Our joint collaboration model allows us to better address key feedback from ecosystem participants while ensuring TradeLens interoperability and data protection among Maersk, IBM and all ecosystem participants. We strongly believe this will maximise industry adoption.”
Standards discussions are underway with openshipping.org. Work to align the open TradeLens APIs with UN/CEFACT standards is also in progress. The TradeLens solution is available to early adopters; it will go on general release by the end of this year.
Active users of the platform include PSA Singapore, International Container Terminal Services, Patrick Terminals, Modern Terminals in Hong Kong, Port of Halifax, Port of Rotterdam, Port of Bilbao, PortConnect, PortBase, and terminal operators Holt Logistics at the Port of Philadelphia. These companies account for around 234 marine gateways worldwide.
Besides, Pacific International Lines (PIL) have joined Maersk Line and Hamburg Süd as global container carriers in the solution. Customs authorities in the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Australia and Peru are participating, along with customs brokers Ransa and Güler & Dinamik are also on board.
Cargo owners include Torre Blanca / Camposol and Umit Bisiklet, freight forwarders, transportation and logistics companies including Agility, CEVA Logistics, DAMCO, Kotahi, PLH Trucking Company, Ancotrans and WorldWide Alliance.
Peter Levesque, chief executive at Modern Terminals, said: “TradeLens uses blockchain technology to create an industry standard for the secure digitization and transmission of supply chain documents around the world. This initiative will generate tremendous savings for our industry over time while enhancing global supply chain security. Modern Terminals is pleased to participate as a Network Member in testing this exciting shipping industry innovation.”
Christophe Cachat, chief information officer at CEVA Logistics, said: “As a global logistics provider, CEVA sees a unique opportunity in TradeLens, joining forces with IBM, Maersk and other actors from our industry to promote global standards around an open and neutral solution, delivering on the promise of blockchain. It is an important step in our relentless journey to deliver increased value to all our customers and making business flow.”