Paperwork is estimated to make up a fifth of shipping costs © Maersk
Paperwork is estimated to make up a fifth of shipping costs © Maersk

Maersk and IBM aim to digitise global shipping

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
17 January 2018

Maersk and IBM have joined forces to create an open technology platform to digitise the global shipping system.

The two companies have formed a new firm to develop the platform, which will use blockchain to cut paperwork and increase transparency and collaboration across players in the shipping industry.

More than $4tn in goods are shipped each year across the world, while more than 80% of the goods consumers use daily are carried by the ocean shipping industry. The cost of documentation associated with this trade is estimated to make up a fifth of total shipping costs. Reducing barriers within the international supply chain could boost global trade by almost 15%, according to the WEF.

Vincent Clerc, chief commercial officer at Maersk and future chairman of the board of the new joint venture, said: “This new company marks a milestone in our strategic efforts to drive the digitisation of global trade. The potential from offering a neutral, open digital platform for safe and easy ways of exchanging information is huge, and all players across the supply chain stand to benefit.”

The aim of the platform is to create a network of interconnected shipping corridors linking ports, terminals, customs authorities, shipping lines, logistics firms and shippers.

IBM said blockchain was a “distributed ledger technology” that “establishes a shared, immutable record of all the transactions that take place within a network and then enables permissioned parties access to trusted data in real time”.

Maersk and IBM started collaborating in June 2016 and a number of firms have piloted the platform including DuPont, Dow Chemical, Tetra Pak and the ports of Houston and Rotterdam.

Michael White, former president of Maersk Line in North America, will be CEO of the new company. He said: “Our ambition is to apply these learnings to establish a fully open platform whereby all players in the global supply chain can participate and extract significant value. We look forward to further expanding our ecosystem of partners as we progress toward a global solution.”

The joint venture is subject to regulatory approval.

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