The move will commercialise Blockchain for all aspects of the global supply chain system, from shipping to ports, and banks to customs offices. Blockchain technology can provide control for the logistics industry since it can replace tedious and insecure paperwork with secure digital records that are also transparent.
Maersk’s chief commercial officer Vincent Clerc, who will serve as chairman of the newly formed board for the joint venture, said: “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.”
The company had promised to make delivery of the new project by the end of last year. The offering is the fulfilment of a year’s worth of planning by both companies, each of whom have invested in Blockchain in various other ways. The joint venture is hoping to start offering their software solutions by Q3 2018.
The global shipping industry has seen little innovation since the container was invented in the 1950s, and cross-border trade still leaves an enormous trail of paperwork and bureaucracy.
The success of the platform, which will be made available to the ocean shipping industry around mid-2018, depends on whether Maersk and IBM can convince shippers, freight forwarders, ocean carriers, ports and customs authorities to sign up.
It will help manage and track tens of millions of shipping containers globally by digitising the supply chain process from end to end, the companies said.
A shipment of refrigerated goods from East Africa to Europe can go through nearly 30 people and organisations and involve more than 200 different communications, according to Maersk. Documentation and bureaucracy can be as much as a fifth of the total cost of moving a container.
Customs and port authorities in the United States, Singapore, the Netherlands and China’s Guangdong province have shown interest in using the platform, and some other shipping companies are also interested, he said.
The move could also improve distribution security. A cyber attack last year caused some of the biggest-ever disruptions to global shipping, displaying the vulnerability of out-dated communication systems. Maersk’s container and port operations were hit for weeks, as it struggled to bring its IT systems including some 1500 applications back online.