Industry On The Move: IBM Expands Blockchain Shipping Platform Membership

Revolutionizing Global Supply Chains

Steven Lerner

The next great technology to overhaul global supply chains will likely be blockchain. In particular, the ocean freight industry is already leveraging this technology, thanks in part to IBM’s exclusive blockchain shipping tool, TradeLens.

What Did IBM Announce This Week?

Two global ocean shipping giants, CMA CGM and Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), formally joined the TradeLens platform on May 28. This marks the first major expansion to the platform since it launched last year by IBM in its partnership with Maersk, the largest container ship and supply vessel operator in the world.

The combination of CMA CGM, MSC, Maersk and other carriers (including Pacific International Lines and Zim Integrated Shipping Services) on the platform accounts for nearly half of the world’s ocean container cargo data, according to IBM.

"The major advances IBM continues to make in blockchain illustrate that the technology is fostering new business models and playing an important role in how the world works" said Bridget van Kralingen, Senior Vice President, Global Industries, Clients, Platforms & Blockchain, IBM. "More than a hundred participants have put their trust in the TradeLens network and are gaining greater transparency and simplicity in the movement of goods. Together we are advancing a shared aim to modernize the world's trading ecosystems."

For TradeLens, having more participants on the platform will increase transparency and collaboration across supply chains. Over 10 million shipping events and thousands of documents are processed each week on the blockchain-based platform. In fact, Maersk’s Anders Lindberg previously discussed the company’s use of blockchain during the 2019 Digital Transformation Online Summit.

“Maersk is involved in a number of projects that could reshape shipping,” Lindberg said.

TradeLens allows participating shipping companies to track shipments in real time, with advanced precision published directly from the source. The platform can be integrated with other solutions. The data is both easily and fully accessible to all members, and it is secured through blockchain encryption and an immutable record of transactions.

Previously, some carriers were worried that IBM and Maersk would control the data since it owns the platform, but those are no longer concerns.

“The TradeLens platform has enormous potential to spur the industry to digitize the supply chain and build collaboration around common standards," said André Simha, Chief Digital & Information Officer, MSC. "We think that the TradeLens Advisory Board, as well as standards bodies such as the Digital Container Shipping Association, will help accelerate that effort."

How Does This Impact The Enterprise?

Obviously, this news will influence the way that the global freight shipping sector operates. It is a solution that can help these organizations move away from outdated paper-based processes that previously made auditing and security very difficult.

The significance of this news will impact supply chains in every sector. From retail to manufacturing, blockchain is being increasingly seen as a more transparent and secure way to track the movement of assets. Blockchain serves as the quintessential technology for companies that have a large network of partners due to the immutable record of data that can be accessed by authorized users.

In 2018, a Deloitte report found that 95% of companies surveyed are investing in blockchain, so it’s likely that the technology will play a growing role in digital transformation.