IBM and transport and logistics outfit AP Moller-Maersk are setting up a joint venture that will build a blockchain-based cross-border supply chain programme to manage and track the paper trail of tens of millions of shipping containers across the world.
The new JV will offer a global trade digitisation platform built on the Hyperledger Fabric and designed for use by the entire global shipping ecosystem. The firm plans to work with a network of shippers, freight forwarders, ocean carriers, ports and customs authorities in a bid to save the industry billions of dollars in costs from manual interventions.
The partners say the digitised process is designed to help reduce fraud and errors, reduce the time products spend in the transit and shipping process, improve inventory management and ultimately reduce waste and cost. Maersk found in 2014 that just a simple shipment of refrigerated goods from East Africa to Europe can go through nearly 30 people and organisations, including more than 200 different interactions and communications among them.
The costs associated with trade documentation processing and administration are estimated to be up to one-fifth the actual physical transportation costs. A single vessel can carry thousands of shipments, and on top of the costs to move the paperwork, the documentation to support it can be delayed, lost or misplaced, leading to further complications.
Big Blue and Maersk began looking to build a blockchain-based system in 2016 and have piloted their platform with the likes of DuPont, Dow Chemical, Tetra Pak, Port Houston, Rotterdam Port Community System Portbase, the Customs Administration of the Netherlands, U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The JV will now commercialise and scale the system, beginning with two core capabilities: a shipping information pipeline and paperless trade. General Motors and Procter and Gamble are among those to have expressed interest.
Bridget van Kralingen, SVP, IBM global industries, solutions and blockchain, says: "Our joint venture with Maersk means we can now speed adoption of this exciting technology with the millions of organizations who play vital roles in one of the most complex and important networks in the world, the global supply chain. We believe blockchain will now emerge in this market as the leading way companies seize new untapped economic opportunities.”