IBM blockchain partnership aims to shape up shipping logistics

March 8, 2017

IBM and Maersk, a transport and logistics provider, have collaborated on a blockchain solution intended to transform the global cross-border supply chain.

The blockchain solution, based on the Linux Foundation's open-source Hyperledger Fabric, will help shipping and logistics companies manage and track tens of millions of shipping containers across the world by digitizing the supply chain process from end-to-end, according to a press release.

The solution 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. When adopted at scale, it has the potential to save the industry billions of dollars, the companies said.

Maersk found in 2014 that just a simple shipment of refrigerated goods from East Africa to Europe can go through nearly 30 people and organizations, and involve more than 200 different interactions and communications.

"[W]e are excited about this cooperation and its potential to bring substantial efficiency and productivity gains to global supply chains, while decreasing fraud and increasing security," Maersk Chief Digital Officer Ibrahim Gokcen said in the release. "The projects we are doing with IBM aim at exploring a disruptive technology such as blockchain to solve real customer problems and create new innovative business models for the entire industry. We expect the solutions we are working on will not only reduce the cost of goods for consumers, but also make global trade more accessible to a much larger number of players from both emerging and developed countries."

How it works:

  • the blockchain, an immutable, transparent shared network, provides each participant end-to-end visibility based on their level of permission;
  • each participant view the progress of goods through the supply chain to understand where a container is in transit and see the status of customs documents, view bills of lading and other data;
  • visibility of the container's progress is enhanced with the real time exchange of original supply chain events and documents; and
  • no one party can modify, delete or append any record without the consensus from others on the network.

This level of transparency helps reduce fraud and errors, reduce the time products spend in the transit and shipping process, improve inventory management and ultimately reduce waste and cost, the companies said.

IBM and Maersk intend to work with a network of shippers, freight forwarders, ocean carriers, ports and customs authorities to build the new global trade digitization solution, which is expected to go into production later this year. 


Topics: Blockchain, Software


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