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Maersk, IBM launch TradeLens blockchain platform with 94 signed up

Rapidly following through on its January announcement planning to set up a blockchain platform, AP Moller–Maersk and IBM have launched TradeLens, jointly developed by the two companies to apply blockchain to the world’s global supply chain.

The open standard platform for trading and supply chains already has 94 organisations signed up including key port players such as Port of Rotterdam, PSA Singapore, International Container Terminal Services Inc (ICTSI) and Hong Kong’s Modern Terminals, the partners said in a press release.

Others among the more than 20 global port and terminal operators in TradeLens ecosystem include Patrick Terminals, Port of Halifax, Port of Bilbao, PortConnect, PortBase, as well as Holt Logistics at the Port of Philadelphia, which join the global APM Terminals’ network in piloting the solution, making up for some 234 marine gateways worldwide that have or will be actively participating on TradeLens.

Liner participation seems somewhat muted for now with just Pacific International Lines (PIL) joining Maersk Line and its Hamburg Süd unit signed up. PIL, PSA International and IBM had previously been involved in a Proof of Concept transporting a container from Chongqing to Singapore via the Southern Transport Corridor.

Read More: PIL, PSA, IBM conclude successful blockchain trial on Chongqing-Singapore route

Other key parties onboard include customs authorities in the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Australia and Peru along with customs brokers Ransa and Güler & Dinamik.

Meanwhile from the cargo side, participation is coming from beneficial cargo owners (BCOs) including Torre Blanca / Camposol and Umit Bisiklet as well as freight forwarders, transportation and logistics companies including Agility, CEVA Logistics, DAMCO, Kotahi, PLH Trucking Company, Ancotrans and WorldWide Alliance. Interestingly, CMA CGM recently bought an almost 25% stake in CEVA Logistics.

TradeLens uses IBM Blockchain technology as the foundation for digital supply chains, empowering multiple trading partners to collaborate by establishing a single shared view of a transaction 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 ad shipping documents, including IoT and sensor data ranging from temperature control to container weight.

Using blockchain smart contracts, TradeLens enables digital collaboration across the multiple parties involved in international trade. The trade document module, released under a beta program and called ClearWay, enables importers/exporters, customs brokers, trusted third parties such as Customs, other government agencies, and NGOs to collaborate in cross-organizational business processes and information exchanges, all backed by a secure, non-repudiable audit trail.

Learn more about smart shipping at Seatrade Maritime Middle East in October 2018

During the 12-month trial, Maersk and IBM worked with dozens of ecosystem partners to identify opportunities to prevent delays caused by documentation errors, information delays, and other impediments. One example demonstrated how TradeLens can reduce the transit time of a shipment of packaging materials to a production line in the United States by 40%, avoiding thousands of dollars in cost. Through better visibility and more efficient means of communicating, some supply chain participants estimate they could reduce the steps taken to answer basic operational questions such as “where is my container” from 10 steps and five people to, with TradeLens, one step and one person.

More than 154m shipping events have been captured on the platform, including data such as arrival times of vessels and container “gate-in”, and documents such as customs releases, commercial invoices and bills of lading. This data is growing at a rate of close to 1m events per day. Traditionally, some of this data can be shared through the EDI systems commonly used in the supply chain industry but these systems are inflexible, complex, and cannot share data in real-time. Too often, companies must still share documents via email attachment, fax and courier. TradeLens can track critical data about every shipment in a supply chain, and offers an immutable record among all parties involved.

Read More: CMA CGM to take 25% stake in CEVA Logistics

“TradeLens uses blockchain technology to create an industry standard for the secure digitization and transmission of supply chain documents around the world,” commented Peter Levesque, ceo of Modern Terminals. “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.”

CEVA Logistics cio Christophe Cachat  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.”

“We believe blockchain can play an important role in digitizing global shipping, an area of the global economy that moves four trillion dollars of goods every year. However, success with the technology rests on a single factor –bringing the entire ecosystem together around a common approach that benefits all participants equally,” said Bridget van Kralingen, svp, IBM Global Industries, Solutions and Blockchain. “Our work with Maersk and other enterprises in the shipping ecosystem has shown that blockchain can be used to form a strong, connected network in which all members gain by sharing important data and that together we can transform a vital part of how global trade is conducted.”

Joint collaboration model to maximize industry adoption

Since announcing the jointly developed solution to digitize global trade in January 2018, and based on feedback from various members of the global supply chain ecosystem who expressed interest to adopt the technology, IBM and Maersk have modified the go-to-market model and will now deliver their solution through an extension of their pre-existing collaboration agreement instead of a joint venture.

“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,” said Mike White, TradeLens leader for Maersk. “We strongly believe this will maximize industry adoption.”

Standards discussions are actively underway with and work to align the TradeLens APIs with UN/CEFACT standards is in progress. The TradeLens APIs are open and available for developer access and feedback from participants in the platform.

The TradeLens solution is already currently available through the Early Adopter Program and is expected to be fully commercially available by the end of this year.

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