IBM and Maersk join blockchain hunt

Technology Update | 8 March 2017

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IBM and Maersk have announced their intention to work together on a new digital payment platform underpinned by blockchain technology, following successful pilots.

The solution targets the shipping industry and will be capable of managing transactions between“shippers, freight forwarders, ocean carriers, ports and customs authorities,” a joint statement from both companies said.

According to a Vision Project study, roughly 90% of goods are shipped in ocean containers. If IBM and Maersk are successful in their product development, the platform could end up being be used by exporters of food and beverages, to scrap metal, textiles and oil.

“As a global integrator of container logistics with the ambition to digitize global trade, we are excited about this cooperation and its potential to bring substantial efficiency and productivity gains to global supply chains, while decreasing fraud and increasing security,” said Ibrahim Gokcen, chief digital officer, Maersk.

“We expect the solutions we are working on will not only reduce the cost of goods for consumers, but also make global trade more accessible to a much larger number of players from both emerging and developed countries.”

The joint initiative is the latest in a line of fintech solutions that attempt to utilise blockchain technology to increase transparency and efficiency while reducing costs, but comes on the back of recent statements made by SWIFT and R3, which suggest that blockchain is not yet a viable technology for traders and global banks to use.

Following successful pilots, SWIFT launched its Global Payments Innovation in February 2017, which is a digital payment platform that does not use blockchain technology.

However on the back of their own successful pilots, one of which involved the transport of goods from Schneider Electric from the Port of Rotterdam to the Port of Newark via a Maersk line, the duo have chosen to pursue the development of their payment solution.

“We believe that this new supply chain solution will be a transformative technology with the potential to completely disrupt and change the way global trade is done,” said Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president, Industry Platforms, IBM.

“Working closely with Maersk for years, we’ve long understood the challenges facing the supply chain and logistics industry and quickly recognised the opportunity for blockchain to potentially provide massive savings when used broadly across the ocean shipping industry ecosystem. Bringing together our collective expertise, we created a new model the industry will be able to use to help improve the transparency and efficiency of delivering goods around the globe.”

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