IBM says two major new members of its TradeLens platform for the shipping and supply chain industry mean that the blockchain-based system will soon carry data for half of the world’s ocean container cargo.
The comment came after IBM, which set up the platform alongside A.P. Moller – Maersk, making it generally available in August 2018, announced that global container carriers CMA CGM and MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) had both joined the platform in a major coup for the company.
The two, as well as using TradeLens, will also operate blockchain nodes, participate in consensus to validate transactions, host data, and assume the critical role of acting as Trust Anchors, or validators, for the network.
MSC is the world”s second largest carrier after Maersk. It operates 480 offices across 155 countries worldwide with over 70,000 employees.
CMA CGM operates 509 vessels serving more than 420 ports. It carried nearly 21 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) in 2018.
What is TradeLens?
Hyperledger Fabric-based TradeShift aims to help the shipping industry share information on everything from contractual shipping data to IoT sensor data like temperature control or container weight, streamlining data flow and moving away from paper-based processes.
(A fact sheet furnished by IBM gives the example of a shipment of oranges from Spain to California, noting that this can involve interaction with 30 different entities, each generating their own documentation that a permissioned ledger can help manage significantly more rapidly).
IBM says there are more than 100 participants on the platform today. These are a “combination of network members and paying customers, a spokesman told Computer Business Review.
The company says TradeLens is “already processing over ten million discrete shipping events and thousands of documents each week, providing shippers, carriers, freight forwarders, customs officials, port authorities, inland transportation providers, and others a common view of transactions.”
An IBM spokesman, responding to questions from Computer Business Review, said: “We are processing both events and trade documents. Events are shipping milestones such as the estimated time of arrival of cargo, the fact that a container has gated in at a port, that customs has released cargo.”
Gunning for ISO 27001
Security concerns and general distrust of blockchain were among early inhibitors for IBM, which inititially struggled to gain marketing traction for the project.
TradeLens is currently in the process of undergoing an audit certifying compliance with the ISO 27001 family of IT security standards, targeted for completion this summer; the consortium says it has been pen testing the network, recently bringing in a team from specialist Coalfire Labs to red team TradeLens, saying the “results pleased all” without providing explicit further details on the outcomes of the security test.
TradeLens’ New Members Cite “Significant Value”
“Digitization is a cornerstone of the CMA CGM Group’s strategy to provide an end-to-end offer tailored to our customers’ needs. We believe that TradeLens, with its commitment to open standards and open governance, is a key platform to help usher in this digital transformation,” said Rajesh Krishnamurthy, Executive VP, IT & Transformations, CMA CGM Group. “TradeLens’ network is already showing that participants from across the supply chain ecosystem can derive significant value.”
Beneficial cargo owner Procter and Gamble added in a release: “P&G ships a significant volume of ocean containers every year. Whether filled with our products or the materials used in production, understanding the status of our containers helps us manage an efficient supply chain.”
“We are convinced that the industry will benefit from the transparency and accuracy of blockchain solutions and we are pleased to see MSC, CMA CGM, and Maersk all on the TradeLens platform. We have been testing TradeLens for the P&G business and see potential as the solution scales. We look forward to industry-wide adoption to benefit all network members,” said Michelle Eggers, Director Global Logistics Purchases, P&G.