With its growing number of use cases and new applications being developed worldwide, blockchain technology is becoming an invaluable asset for many global industries. The shipping industry hasn’t been left out of the blockchain revolution that is sweeping across these various sectors. One of the most recent developments in the shipping industry came from the Port of Rotterdam Authority, Europe’s largest port, announcing in a press release that it partnered with Samsung SDS to test a container logistics blockchain initiative.
Samsung SDS is a subsidiary of Samsung Group and is involved in the delivery of information technology services, and other technical offerings, as well as serving as the IT arm of Samsung Group. Their partnership in developing the Port of Rotterdam blockchain also includes ABN AMRO, a Netherlands-based bank. The parties will collaborate to conduct trials for a blockchain project focused on shipping containers from an unnamed Asian factory to Rotterdam’s port. By including ABN AMRO, the project will stand out from competing proof of concepts (POC) since it is integrating financial information into the ledger combined with the physical location of shipping containers as well as shipment documentation.
Paperwork issues are very common in the shipping industry. Transporting a single container could involve over 20 parties that have to communicate with each other and trade paper documentation to successfully move the container. Managing the payment, administration, and physical movement of shipping containers through paper-based processes is often problematic and inefficient. The difficulties with using these traditional paper-based systems were explained by Paul Smits, the Port of Rotterdam Authority’s chief financial officer.
According to him:
“Currently, payments, administration and the physical transportation of containers still take place entirely via separate circuits. This results in inefficiency as many parties are involved, and everything is organized via paper documentation.”
Container Logistics Blockchain Solution
The Port of Rotterdam container logistics blockchain initiative was conceived with the hope that blockchain integration can help streamline the shipping process and bring a higher level of efficiency to the industry. The Port of Rotterdam Authority has stated that the project seeks to build “a complete, paperless integration of physical, administrative and financial streams within international distribution chains.” BlockLab, a subsidiary of the Port of Rotterdam focused on building practical blockchain solutions will be involved in the development of the project’s infrastructure.
The Port of Rotterdam has already started moving toward digitization with many of its services and has been involved with digitized solutions ranging from cybersecurity and safety to climate change. This blockchain pilot will build on these previous projects, and expand into the area of port transactions. The partnership with Samsung SDS will also help Rotterdam link other blockchains to the port’s system.
Commenting on the project, Sanghun Lee, president of Samsung SDS had this to say:
“What is particularly special about the project is that, for the first time in the rather short history of this technology, we can have different blockchains operating together. This takes place via an overarching ‘notary’ that connects entirely separate blockchains in Korea and the Netherlands.”
The “Smart Port” of Rotterdam
Digitizing the Port of Rotterdam could help port customers reduce their costs. Improving efficiency is paramount because of the level of activity the port has to deal with every year. Statistics show that more than 140,000 ships carrying over 461 million tons of cargo go through the Port of Rotterdam on an annual basis, making it the biggest European port based on the tonnage circulated every year.
The Port of Rotterdam is also working with IBM to further boost their efficiency by creating a digital clone of the Port of Rotterdam that will replicate its infrastructure and resources, tracking ship movements, weather, geographical and water depth data down to the most granular details. This will allow the Port of Rotterdam to experiment with different scenarios, test out new ideas, and investigate methods for improving their productivity while avoiding certain risks and maintaining safety standards.
Moreover, the port authority is also looking into using 3D printing as a useful manufacturing tool for the shipping industry. A new research and development facility was launched by the port to investigate the application of this technology. With all these digitization initiatives being put in place, the Port of Rotterdam is set to become a fully functional “smart port.” With speed and efficiency as its selling point, it will attract more customers and will grow into a more efficient and profitable enterprise in the future.
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