Maersk Line and IBM Corp. said todayÂ that 94 logistics organizations have agreed to participate inÂ the blockchain-enabled joint venture they launched in JanuaryÂ to promote more efficient andÂ secure global trade. Copenhagen-based Maersk and IBM, headquartered in Armonk, N.Y.,Â believe their "TradeLens" venture can bring together various parties toÂ support better information sharing and spurÂ industry-wide innovation,Â the partners said.
The project was announced in January when theÂ two partners said they had formed a joint venture to improve the flow ofÂ dataÂ in global trade and transportation by applying blockchainÂ technology to create a distributed ledger that builds a transparent andÂ indelible record of supply chain transactions. The Kuwaiti logisticsÂ firm Agility Logistics said in February it would use theÂ platformÂ toÂ manage its international container shipments, as Maersk and IBM continuedÂ working to obtain government regulatory approvals.
That work has now progressed to the pointÂ where the TradeLens solution is available through an Early AdopterÂ Program, and is expected to be fully commercially available by theÂ end of thisÂ year, IBM said. Partners who sign up can begin using theÂ TradeLens platform to build digital supply chains that empower multipleÂ trading partners to collaborate by establishing a single sharedÂ viewÂ of a transaction without compromising its details, privacy, orÂ confidentiality, IBM said in the announcement.
The TradeLens website defines the productÂ as aÂ neutralÂ industry platform that uses blockchain technologyto promote a more predictableÂ and secure exchange of informationÂ between major industry players. That capabilityÂ can break information silos, streamline business processes, and maximize assetÂ utilization, the site says.
Parties that stand to benefit from theÂ approach include shippers, shipping lines, freight forwarders, portÂ and terminal operators, and inland transportation andÂ customs authorities, the companiesÂ said. Those organizations can useÂ the secure platform to exchange real-time information such as shippingÂ data and shipping documents, including internet of things (IoT) andÂ sensor dataÂ ranging from temperature control to container weight,Â according to Maersk.
Another potential benefit ofÂ the TradeLens platform is its support for "blockchainÂ smart contracts" which enable digital collaborationacross the multipleÂ parties involved in international trade.Â That capability isÂ available through a trade document module of the product known asÂ ClearWay, now released under a beta program.
Maersk and IBM say they developed these featuresÂ during a 12-month trial with dozens of ecosystem partners. That trialÂ showed that Tradelens could help trading partners to reduce the stepsÂ taken to answer the basic operational question "Where is myÂ container?" from 10 steps and five people down to one step and oneÂ person, the companies said.
But to achieve that full potential, the platformÂ will rely on broad industry adoption, IBM said. "We believeÂ blockchain can play an important role in digitizing global shipping, anÂ area of theÂ global economy that moves four trillion dollars of goodsÂ every year," Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president, IBM GlobalÂ Industries, Solutions and Blockchain, said in a statement.Â "However,Â success with the technology rests on a single factor—bringing the entireÂ ecosystem together around a common approach that benefits all participantsÂ equally."
IBM says it is gaining traction toward thatÂ widespread use through the announcement that 94 groups have agreed toÂ participate or are already involved. Supply chain organizations that haveÂ signed up so far include: more than 20 international port and terminalÂ operators; the global container carriers Pacific InternationalÂ Lines (PIL), Hamburg SÃ¼d, and Maersk Line; customsÂ authorities in theÂ Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Australia, and Peru; customsÂ brokers; beneficial cargo owners (BCOs); and a list ofÂ freight forwarders and and logistics companies suchÂ as Agility, CEVAÂ Logistics, DAMCO, Kotahi, PLH Trucking Co., Ancotrans, and WorldWideÂ Alliance.