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Cosco engineers blockchain coup to rival Maersk’s TradeLens

Cosco has engineered a massive blockchain coup, sideswiping rival Maersk in the process.

Yesterday in China many of the world’s top carriers and port operators signed up to form a blockchain consortium which will be called the Global Shipping Business Network (GSBN).

The carriers involved are Cosco, its new subsidiary OOCL, CMA CGM and Evergreen, all from the Ocean Alliance, as well as Yang Ming, while the terminal operators are among the biggest names in the sector, comprising PSA, DP World, Hutchison and Shanghai International Port Group.

CargoSmart, the liner portal created by OOCL in 2000 and now owned by Cosco, will develop the technology using Oracle cloud software for the new venture.

The signing of the MoU for this groundbreaking venture took place yesterday in Shanghai at the Cosco-organised World Shipping Summit.

The consortium’s members intend to collaboratively develop the platform and establish standards to facilitate the seamless sharing of documents and data across all stages of the shipping lifecycle.

“The GSBN provides the foundation for new applications that can transform documentation flow for shipment management including dangerous goods documents, invoices, and cargo release,” a release yesterday stated.

The first planned application will allow shippers to digitise and organise their dangerous goods documents and automatically connect with relevant parties to streamline the approval process.

The application is scheduled to be available from next month.

“We are pleased to provide an industry-wide forum for collaboration based on blockchain technologies to transform the shipping and logistics industry and elevate supply chain processes,” said Steve Siu, CEO of CargoSmart.

The news from Shanghai will have been greeted with some alarm in Copenhagen. Maersk, the world’s largest liner, has struggled to get its peers to come onboard TradeLens, its blockchain platform that it has been developing this year with IBM. To date, just subsidiary Hamburg Sud and Singapore’s PIL are the two liners to have signed up to TradeLens.

Commenting on LinkedIn on the potential rivalry between opposing blockchain platforms, Dr Roar Adland, shipping professor at the Norwegian School of Economics, compared it to the 1980s battle for video supramacy between VHS and Betamax and suggested something as important as blockchain should fall under the supervision of an independent body like the United Nations.

“What we need is a common system and standard for the entire container industry and all stakeholders,” Adland suggested, adding: “Take it away from the industry players and place it with a UN trade body perhaps? Something as important as increasing the efficiency of world trade needs supranational efforts, not infighting between competing industry consortia.”

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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