Maersk Line and IBM in blockchain partnership to streamline container shipping

Maersk Line is partnering with IBM to use a new blockchain solution to track and digitize the complex paper trail associated with the tens of millions of containers its moves annually.

The collaboration with IBM is the latest effort by the world’s largest container line to digitize the container shipping process. Using a block chain solution based on the Hyperledger Fabric solution built by IBM and Maersk the line aims to enhance the transparency and security of sharing of information among partners in the supply chain.

“When adopted at scale, the solution has the potential to save the industry billions of dollars,” the two companies said in a statement.

Blockchains are an open distributed ledger where each block is linked to the last that was initially utilised in the digital currency BitCoin and is now being seen as way to secure a large number of digital processes.

The solution between Maersk and IBM is aimed at reducing fraud and errors, the time products spend in the transit and shipping process, improve inventory management, which as result will bring down waste and cost.

Illustrating the complexities of the current process Maersk said a shipment of refrigerated goods from East Africa to Europe can go through nearly 30 people and organisations and more than 200 interactions and communications between them.

“The projects we are doing with IBM aim at exploring a disruptive technology such as blockchain to solve real customer problems and create new innovative business models for the entire industry,” said Ibrahim Gokcen, chief digital officer, Maersk.

“We expect the solutions we are working on will not only reduce the cost of goods for consumers, but also make global trade more accessible to a much larger number of players from both emerging and developed countries.”

Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president, Industry Platforms, IBM: ““We believe that this new supply chain solution will be a transformative technology with the potential to completely disrupt and change the way global trade is done.”

Shipping has struggled to digitize the complex paperwork processes associated with the global movements of goods with regulations demanding hard copies of documentation.

An industry standard API for the centralized sharing of data and shipping information via the cloud was originally conceived by Frank Heijmann, head of trade relations, Customs Administration of the Netherlands, and David Hesketh, head of customs research and development, HM Revenue and Customs.

See below for an infographic on how Maersk and IBM see blockchain improving the shipping process:

Infographic The Paper Trail of a Shipping Container

Posted 6 March 2017

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Marcus Hand

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Editor, Seatrade Maritime News Marcus Hand is the editor of Seatrade Maritime News and a dedicated maritime journalist with nearly two decades of experience covering the shipping industry in Asia. In addition to running Seatrade's maritime and offshore news website based from Singapore he is the Asia Editor of Seatrade Maritime Review. Marcus is also an experienced industry commentator and has chaired many conferences and round tables. Prior to joining Seatrade at the beginning of 2010 Marcus worked for shipping industry journal Lloyd's List for a decade and previous to that the Singapore Business Times covering shipping and aviation.

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