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Container Shipping & Trade

Container Shipping & Trade

Box industry: Enter blockchain

Wed 21 Feb 2018 by Rebecca Moore

Box industry: Enter blockchain
Maersk opens container shipping industry's doors to blockchain

After all the publicity surrounding blockchain, it could soon become a reality in the container shipping market

There has been plenty of talk about blockchain in the industry but until recently little sign that any fully-formed concrete solution has been applied.

Alphaliner said in its newsletter at the start of January that, while a number of blockchain initiatives involving container shipping have been launched since 2017, “the actual application of this new technology remains limited.” It added “while several potential blockchain applications have been identified, none of these products has been released so far.”

CST spoke to the vice president of marketing of the business software company Infor, Greg Kefer, who also highlighted that blockchain had not properly entered the container shipping market yet. He said that blockchain is something that Infor is focused on but pointed out the ‘hype’ surrounding it.

“Blockchain is very hyped, it is white-hot and everybody is talking about it,” he said. “We think it has great potential in the supply chain and are investing in it. We believe blockchain, delivered in conjunction with the GT Nexus Commerce Network, has immense potential as it continues to mature.” The GT Nexus Commerce Network is a cloud-based platform that provides visibility and process automation capabilities across the supply chain.

However, he singled out some drawbacks – while it is ‘exciting’ and ‘disruptive’, it is still ‘early days’.

Mr Kefer explained “We believe that blockchain is not a fad and it will be part of supply chain innovation in some form, the question is, what form? There are some interesting innovation opportunities in the areas of trade finance, traceability and visibility.”

Looking at the impact it might have on the container shipping industry, he said “What we will see over the next five or six years are new-use cases around how blockchain is fused into global logistics management. I don’t see companies dumping current technology and just moving to blockchain.

“Rather, if companies have already digitised their processes, they will be better positioned to take advantage of blockchain and bring it into their current technology. Supply chain information networks will continue to be a critical element of any blockchain strategy.”

The lack of application of blockchain could be about to change though, as in January this year Maersk and IBM announced a joint venture that will provide more efficient and secure methods for conducting global trade using blockchain technology. This could open the doors to the widespread use of blockchain in box shipping because the global trade digitisation platform that Maersk and IBM are developing is not being developed just for Maersk’s use but for the global container shipping industry.

“Blockchain is very hyped, it is white-hot and everybody is talking about it” Greg Kefer (Infor)

As Maersk explained, the aim of the new company will be to offer a jointly-developed global trade digitisation platform that will address the need to provide more transparency and simplicity in the movement of goods across borders and trading zones.

Maersk and IBM will use blockchain technology to power the new platform alongside other cloud-based open source technologies including artificial intelligence (AI), IoT and analytics, delivered via IBM Services, in order to help companies move and track goods digitally across international borders.

“The potential from offering a neutral, open digital platform for safe and easy ways of exchanging information is huge and all players across the supply chain stand to benefit,” said Maersk chief commercial officer and future chairman of the board of the new joint venture Vincent Clerc. “By joining our knowledge of trade with IBM’s capabilities in blockchain and enterprise technology, we are confident this new company can make a real difference in shaping the future of global trade.”

IBM and Maersk began a collaboration in June 2016 to build new blockchain- and cloud-based technologies. Since then, multiple parties have piloted the platform including DuPont, Dow Chemical, Tetra Pak, Port of Houston, Rotterdam Port Community System Portbase, the Customs Administration of the Netherlands and the US Customs and Border Protection.

Additional customs and government authorities, including Singapore Customs and Peruvian Customs, will explore collaborating with the platform to facilitate trade flows and enhance supply chain security. Global terminal operators APM Terminals and PSA International will use the platform to enrich port collaboration and improve terminal planning.

The new company initially plans to commercialise two core capabilities aimed at digitising the global supply chain from end-to-end:

• A shipping information pipeline will provide end-to-end supply chain visibility to enable all actors involved in managing a supply chain to securely and seamlessly exchange information about shipment events in real time.

• Paperless trade will digitise and automate paperwork filings by enabling end-users to securely submit, validate and approve documents across organisational boundaries, ultimately helping to reduce the time and cost for clearance and cargo movement. Blockchain-based smart contracts ensure all required approvals are in place, helping to speed up approvals and reduce mistakes.

Upon regulatory clearance, solutions from the joint venture are expected to become available within six months.

The platform is built on IBM Blockchain technology, which is provided through the IBM Cloud and powered by Hyperledger Fabric 1.0, a blockchain framework and one of the Hyperledger projects hosted by the Linux Foundation.

Another company that also has a concrete plan to roll out its blockchain solution is 300cubits, a start-up company launched in July 2017. It will be the first to roll out a blockchain solution for the container shipping market with a booking deposit system that is due to start 15 June 2018.

According to Alphaliner, the system will deploy blockchain technology and a crypto-currency to address the problem of cargo ‘no-shows’ and ‘rollovers’ that 300cubits said are key challenges in the container shipping industry.

Tracking solution gives ‘complete control’

Valmet launches container tracking solution that will slash supply chain costs

Valmet is launching a real-time solution to track the movement of containers and manage their pressure and temperature as they move through the supply chain.

The company completed a pilot at the end of last year with gas containers – the most “demanding container type,” Valmet director of process automation Jani Hautaluoma told Container Shipping & Trade, explaining that the solution is especially relevant to containers containing chemicals or high value goods, where tracking and monitoring the container is a benefit and where ensuring the pressure and temperature is correct is critical.

Called the Virtual Real-Time Pressure Transmitter, the solution allows supply chain stakeholders to read the pressure from the container in real-time without any physical measurement device installed on the container. Mr Hautaluoma explained that containers are equipped with a GPS module that provides temperature measurement and location availability.

Software automatically calculates the pressure based on the product within the container (gas or liquid) and temperature measurement. When the container reaches the next point in the supply chain where the process data is available, the system automatically compares the virtual pressure and real pressure measurement and adjusts it accordingly.

The solution is part of the Valmet DNA Integrated Operations (IO) container management application. IO collects process data as the container moves on its journey and integrates the latest process values into the container’s GPS module, which acts as the container’s ID.

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