Early Days for Blockchain – But the Future is Bright! – LogiSYM May/June 2019
Blockchain has been a buzzword in the shipping industry for a number of years. But it has had many false starts with high expectations of what can be achieved.
The ultimate goal is to deliver a complete paperless integration within the international distribution chains. His would include the physical, administrative and financial streams of the supply chains.
“The Payments, administration and the physical transportation of containers are still, mostly entirely separate circuits. This results in delays and inefficiency as many parties are involved in the process. The transportation, monitoring and financing of a container should be just as easy as ordering a pizza online,” according to Martijn Thijsen, Digital Strategy, Transformation & Business Development Containers, Breakbulk & Logistics for Port of Rotterdam(PoR).
So we might well ask, what is the long-term potential of blockchain technology?
“Technologies such as blockchain are starting to prove their added value. We are discovering new applications every day. So, we are only at the starting point, of an understanding and the unlock of the true potential of blockchain. The speed of developments is only going to accelerate in the coming years. But we have no idea of what is to come ! However I am certain it will massively impact and disrupt supply chain management as we know it,” adds Martijn Thijsen.
For its part, the Port of Rotterdam has initiated a pilot based on blockchain technology, in collaboration with the Dutch ABN AMRO bank and Samsung SDS, Samsung’s logistics and I.T. arm.
Using ‘ÐΞLIVΞR’, the BlockLab set up by the PoR, work is progressing on an open, independent platform. It scope is to connect blockchains and other technological networks. This is intended to deliver an increased transparency and efficiency in the logistics chains.
“By bringing together physical, administrative and financial streams, we enable banks to co-finance an entire trade lane. When a container travels around the world, payment is usually not made until a few weeks later. This particularly affects small businesses. If a bank sees that the bill of lading has been transferred to the next party in the chain, it can redistribute the money, and smaller parties can also get their invoicing and financing done. That is the added value of inclusiveness of trade,” says Martijn Thijsen.
The pilot project initially concerns multimodal transport of a container between Asia and the hinterland of Rotterdam. Other trade lanes are already being considered for evaluation. In addition to the PoR, Samsung SDS and ABN AMRO, are also other parties who may also join in the future. ÐΞLIVΞR acts as a link between different blockchains and other networks.
“We act as a notary. We do not retain validated information from linked networks but pass it on.”
The Port of Rotterdam’s blockchain initiative, is part of its Port Forward Strategy. It also includes a range of digital tools that enables digitalization of Port Operations and Supply Chain Efficiency and Transparency to be deployed and achieve a higher level of effectiveness.
These tools can also be used by other ports to raise their digital level of maturity. Examples include the “Pronto Tool” for Port Call Optimisation, the Streamline platform for streamlining container volumes and tools that are still under development, such as Boxinsider and an automated trucking solution. The tools contribute to the creation of a single point of truth.
The Port of Rotterdam uses them to optimise cooperation within the port community. They connect with hinterland parties which aims to use them for data exchange with ports and logistics players in the rest of the world.
“The need for clear and effective standards to manage data exchange in logistics chains is, growing worldwide. From our focus on both the momentum in the change evolving and the digital transformation, we have developed suitable tools to contribute and enable this crucial development.
This is good new for everyone !
For an independent service provider, we can offer neutral platform solutions from a non-commercial position. For a shipper, they can benefit from the latest neutral platform tools available. This will allow an easy adaption of shippers processes, whilst not having to be locked in with an service provider.
Creating a new digital work environment, with flexibility, scalability and choices of operators, I s a very crucial step in the evolution of technology. Gone are the days when shippers had to be locked into single user providers or singe use software that was hard and expensive to change.
“Digitally connecting ports worldwide will be a step-by-step process. You can start simple, for instance, by exchanging ETAs. Currently, all ports are working on their digital transformation, often independently of each other. By joining forces, sharing data and working together, we keep logistics future-proof and expand the world of possibilities,” concludes Martijn Thijsen.