UPDATED 23:20 EST / JANUARY 16 2018

EMERGING TECH

IBM and Maersk team up to offer blockchain-based global shipping platform

IBM Corp. and A.P. Moller-Maersk Group are establishing a new jointly owned company to promote and sell a blockchain-based system for managing global shipping.

The yet unnamed company will use a platform developed by the two companies as part of trial announced in March last year that involved digitizing Maersk’s shipping manifests and operations. The initial offering will include two blockchain-based options: a shipping information pipeline that provides a real-time, transparent view of merchandise movement and smart contracts that replace traditional paper-based processes.

“The objective of the platform is to connect and provide benefits to the supply chain ecosystem,” IBM said in a statement. “A global network of interconnected shipping corridors linking the ports and terminals, customs authorities, shipping lines, third-party logistics (3PLs), inland transportation, shippers and other actors, all together.”

Multiple parties are said to have already piloted the platform, including DuPont, Dow Chemical, Tetra Pak, Port Houston, Rotterdam Port Community System Portbase, the Customs Administration of the Netherlands, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. A number of others are said to have expressed interest in trying out or working with the platform, including Singapore Customs, Peruvian Customs, General Motors Co. and Procter & Gamble Co.

If the platform is successful, the figures involved are staggering. IBM noted that the cost of global trade is estimated to be $1.8 trillion annually and the platform can offer savings of about 10 percent, or $180 billion a year. That potentially could result not only in savings for all those involved in the global shipping process but also savings for consumers as well if some of those savings are passed along.

The IBM-Maersk blockchain platform isn’t alone in the market. IBM is also running a trial of another blockchain-based platform with Singapore-based shipping company Pacific International Lines Pte Ltd. and port operator PSA International Pte Ltd.

Samsung SDS, the information technology subsidiary of electronics company Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., is also building out a major blockchain network operation to manage Korea’s shipping industry logistics. Partners in that project include Korea Customs Service, Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, Hyundai Merchant Marine and, indicating a trend when it comes to shipping and global freight blockchain development, IBM Korea.

Photo: Alf van Beem/Wikimedia Commons

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