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Container Shipping & Trade

Container Shipping & Trade

PIL trials innovative blockchain-based bill of lading technology

Thu 07 Mar 2019 by Ed Martin

PIL trials innovative blockchain-based bill of lading technology
Using the EBL reduced the administrative time to transfer the title deed on the shipment from a week to just one second

Pacific International Lines (PIL) had an auspicious start to the new year with a successful trial of a blockchain-based electronic bill of lading (EBL) to track a shipment in real-time

Built on the enterprise-ready IBM blockchain platform, the trial saw an EBL used to track in real-time a shipment of approximately 108,000 mandarin oranges being imported to Singapore from China by Hupco in time for the lunar new year celebrations.

PIL said using the EBL reduced the administrative time to transfer the title deed on the shipment to just one second from about a week.

Hupco chairman and chief executive Tay Khiam Back said “We are delighted with the outcome of the trial. By using the EBL, we have seen how the entire shipment process can be simplified and made more transparent with considerable cost savings.

While mandarin oranges are a common sight at new year celebrations, their choice as cargo was important as they are a perishable item that requires faster document processing and expedited cargo clearing for delivery. Shortened shipping times for such cargoes is therefore especially valuable.

Using blockchain technology guarantees the provenance of the documentation as they are rendered both traceable and tamper-proof. The technology is based around decentralised, encrypted ledger technology that creates a permanent, digitised chain of transactions grouped in blocks. All members of the business network are given access to a copy of the encrypted ledger that they can read and edit. Any amendments to the ledger require validation using a consensus process, and once given this is instantly committed to all ledgers in the network.

PIL executive director Lisa Teo said “We are pleased with the steady progress of our blockchain collaboration with IBM.

“To-date, we have received very positive feedback from the industry and authorities, and we are enthused by the possibilities of how our blockchain developments can transform and inject a much-needed boost in efficiency and innovation into the industry.”

IBM and PIL formally started work on the concept, along with MPA, by signing a memorandum of understanding at the Singapore Regional Business Forum in July 2017.

A proof-of-concept exercise took place that concluded in February 2018, using a blockchain-based supply chain platform to track and trace cargo movement from Chongqing to Singapore via the southern transport corridor.

IBM Asia Pacific chief executive and chairman Harriet Green said “A blockchain-based trade network will be a game-changer, and we have a great opportunity here with our partner PIL to revolutionise the documentation processes in a way that benefits the entire industry.”

Plans for the Lunar New Year trial were announced in October 2018, when Ms Teo said “As an international shipping company, we believe we have a role to play in enhancing efficiencies within the intermodal transport logistics ecosystem. Working with a complex logistics network comprising ports and terminals, agencies, government entities, banks and shippers; systematic supply chain management is increasingly important to lower costs through the chain by cutting unnecessary expense, movements and handling.

“Traditionally, information flow is predominantly handled via manual processes and the supply chain is slowed down when there are many points of communication within its framework. The use of blockchain technology to allow for the direct exchange of documents and information via the decentralised network to boost transparency, eliminate disputes forgeries and unnecessary risks will be key for this industry to progress.”

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