The integrated container logistics company A.P. Moller-Maersk and IBM have recently announced the creation of TradeLens, a jointly developed shipping solution to apply blockchain to the world’s global supply chain. Built on open standards, it aims to promote more efficient and secure global trade, bringing together various parties to support information sharing and transparency, and spur industry-wide innovation.
And it’s not just the solution, the two companies have also announced an entire ecosystem…
The TradeLens ecosystem
As part of the TradeLens early adopter program, 94 organizations are actively involved or have agreed to participate on the TradeLens platform, including:
- More than 20 port and terminal operators across the globe — including PSA Singapore, International Container Terminal Services Inc, 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, join the global APM Terminals’ network in piloting the solution. This accounts for approximately 234 marine gateways worldwide that have or will be actively participating on TradeLens.
- Pacific International Lines (PIL) have joined Maersk Line and Hamburg Süd as global container carriers participating in the solution.
- Customs authorities in the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Australia and Peru are participating, along with customs brokers Ransa and Güler & Dinamik.
- Participation among beneficial cargo owners (BCOs) has grown to 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 are also currently participating.
And, undoubtedly, more organizations are looking to join the party.
The TradeLens technology
As expected, TradeLens relies on IBM’s blockchain technology 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. This enables all parties — such as shippers, shipping lines, freight forwarders, port and terminal operators, inland transportation and customs authorities — to 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.
The system also uses smart contracts to enable digital collaboration across 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.
IBM and Maersk are currently having standards discussions with openshipping.org and the 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.
Maersk and IBM conducted a 12-month trial of TradeLens along with dozens of ecosystem partners to identify opportunities to prevent delays caused by documentation errors, information delays, and other impediments. The results are impressive, with one example demonstrating how TradeLens can reduce the transit time of a shipment of packaging materials to a production line in the United States by 40 percent, thus avoiding thousands of dollars in cost.
In addition, because it provides better visibility and more efficient means of communication, 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.
So far, more than 154 million 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 one million events per day, and the system tracks it all, while offering immutable record among all parties involved.
“TradeLens uses blockchain technology to create an industry standard for the secure digitization and transmission of supply chain documents around the world,” Peter Levesque, CEO of Modern Terminals, said in a statement. “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.”
The TradeLens solution is available through the Early Adopter Program. TradeLens is expected to be fully commercially available by the end of this year.
For the end, we share the words of Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president of 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,” she said.