The Israel Ports Company is seeking to introduce blockchain to the port community system. Can it be effective and worthwhile?
Applying Blockchain to a Seaport
Blockchain as technology continues to impact new spaces across various industries. We can now say that almost every industry is experimenting or interacting with blockchain. Recently, the shipping industry in Israel is one of the latest sectors to try the application of blockchain. The Israel Ports Company initiated a test sequence for a way of sending bills of lading via blockchain. Many industries have been eager to test blockchain with some not necessarily considering the impact and effectiveness of deploying the technology. Certainly, questions will be asked of the recent foray by the Israel Ports Company given that the rate of failure of blockchain projects is on the high side.
Although, this is understandable as the blockchain technology is still in its infancy. However, that has not deterred organizations from experimenting with the technology. Many organizations see it as an important step in the evolution of their various industries. The Israel Ports Company echoes this sentiment by indicating that the blockchain-based electronic bill of lading is a substantial improvement of the system used in the port. As it allows a quicker cargo release while cutting down the cost and time relating to utilizing courier industries. The expectation is that blockchain will also help foil falsifications and prevent delays of documentation.
The International Port Community Systems Association (IPCSA), under which the Israel Ports Company belongs also shares the project vision. The company headline the program on the behalf of the IPCSA. The goal is to have a system that enables transactions to occur between all authorized bodies without the need for paper-based documents.
However, the import and export process has mostly gone paperless already with about 90-99% of the processes covered. This is done through the electronic services and networks offerings by the IPCSA. So, why all the fuss about blockchain application in the shipping sector aiding paperless transaction? This is after the IPCSA members acknowledge a key issue here. That is that just changing from the present digital network to blockchain holds no substantial advantage without proper evaluation.
Don’t be mistaken though, most of the shipping process is already electronic based. There are still some parts of the process, which are solely reliant on paper transactions. One of which is the bills of lading, which is the pilot anchor for blockchain application on paper-based processes.
Pilot Testing as a Joint Effort
The initial pilot test involved Adama, ZIM Integrated Shipping Services, Damco logistics as well as PPL 33-35. The test involves ZIM issuing the bill of lading electronically. The bill is sent to the exporter as well as the importer based in Ukraine. The transparency of the blockchain technology allows all parties involved to know who has the electronically issued bill of lading at any point in time along with the cargo logistic breakdown.
Although, it is still early days to judge if the project will join the scrap heap of failed enterprise blockchain project or if it will be one of the successful few. One thing is clear. The program seeks to add more partakers willing to participant in the trial of the technology in the not so distant future.