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Is blockchain the future of logistics visibility?

Companies are testing technology behind Bitcoin to provide better security, transparency in shipping transactions
Monday, October 16, 2017 - 07:00
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“We have documented the first phase of this use case, its implications for the maritime industry and the resulting development of a turn-key application ecosystem for global supply chain logistics,” says Deanna MacDonald, CEO of Blockchain Labs for Open Collaboration. “However, the future potential of this ecosystem platform will rest upon collaboration from the different actors in these supply chains in order to clearly identify the problems and co-create applications that solve for the collective challenges they are facing today.”

According to Cleworth, blockchain represents a good way to connect different stakeholders because it provides transparency and “security-by-design.” This can help prevent the types of industrial cyberattacks that have recently plagued large shipping and logistics companies.

Maersk – a high profile victim of just such an attack –also has piloted blockchain. Working with IBM, Maersk created a digital distributed ledge – a single electronic system where all shipping documents can reside.

The solution IBM and Maersk tested will be available to other shipping and logistics companies, and will help track documentation of potentially tens of millions of shipping containers.

According to IBM: “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.”

Costs associated with trade documentation processing can amount to up to one-fifth of the cost to transport goods. Blockchain improves this by providing each participant end-to-end visibility based on permissions levels. Stakeholders can also see the status of shipping documents.

In order to modify or delete a record, all parties have to have consensus on the change. This can help reduce fraud and errors and save time in the shipping process by eliminating document-related delays.

For shippers, this type of solution could help reduce trade documentation and processing costs and eliminate delays and paperwork errors. Customs authorities would also have better visibility into potential shipping risks, which would make border inspections and clearances more efficient.

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