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Cosco and Alibaba join forces in bid to transform shipping

Chinese state-run shipping giant Cosco Shipping has entered into an agreement with e-commence conglomerate Alibaba and its fintech affiliate Ant Group to collaborate on blockchain applications in shipping.

Under the agreement, the parties will work together to promote blockchain developments in various shipping and logistics sectors to connect data and systems in shipping, ports, logistics and finance with an aim to create a platform that facilitates integration along the supply chain.

According to Ant Group, the partnership aims to address the complexity of the shipping process by linking all parties in the shipping sectors. Its technology, Ant Blockchain, is the biggest enterprise-oriented blockchain platform in China with the ability to process up to 1bn transactions per day and support 1bn users.

In the near future, cargo owners will probably complete the whole shipping process without noticing the existence of shipping companies

“Through Ant Group’s blockchain technology, we look forward to supporting the digital transformation of the global shipping industry, and working with Cosco Shipping to make it easier and more efficient to trade globally,” said Eric Jing, executive chairman of Ant Group.

Alibaba entered into a similar agreement with China Merchants in May to develop a digital platform for port operations.

The partnership is expected to be a strong competitor to TradeLens, a blockchain initiative set up by Maersk and IBM in 2018.

“The partnership could be a significant milestone for the digitalisation development process in the shipping industry and allow the seamless connection and transfer of cargo flow, cash flow and information flow, eventually promoting the innovation and transformation of the shipping industry,” said Zhang Lingfang, a professor at Dalian Maritime University.

“The collaboration is telling the shipping world that the fundamental changes brought by technology are imminent. In the near future, cargo owners will probably complete the whole shipping process without noticing the existence of the shipping companies,” said Zhang Jieshu, vice secretary general of Shanghai International Shipping Institute (SISI).

Cosco has been making efforts in the shipping digitisation development, having led the establishment of Global Shipping Business Network (GSBN), a non-profit blockchain organisation which aims to digitialise shipping supply chain operations and connect carriers, terminal operators, customs agencies, shippers, and logistics service providers.

Commenting on today’s news from Singapore, Ronny Waage, founder of maritime tech consultancy Heron Advisory, told Splash: “I do think it is a positive development that the maritime industry is finally collaborating more with non-industry players who are also heavyweights in the technology space.”

Jason Jiang

Jason is one of the most prolific writers on the diverse China shipping & logistics industry and his access to the major maritime players with business in China has proved an invaluable source of exclusives. Having been working at Asia Shipping Media since inception, Jason is the chief correspondent of Splash and associate editor of Maritime CEO magazine. Previously he had written for a host of titles including Supply Chain Asia, Cargo Facts and Air Cargo Week.


  1. Sinister scenario. where shipping companies become superfluous and thousands of employees will be replaced by a mobile app, controlled by the chinese Communist Party.

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