In early August, IBM and Maersk unveiled TradeLens, a global trade blockchain platform seeking to bring efficiency and transparency to international shipping. After months of testing with port operators, customs authorities, logistics companies, and carriers, TradeLens hopes to be fully commercially available by the end of 2018. The platform is being billed as an open and neutral ecosystem, designed to integrate with other Hyperledger Fabric blockchains. While only time will tell if IBM and Maersk are truly dedicated to collaboration, the possibility of multiple blockchain platforms interacting and integrating could revolutionize shipping from the open ocean to the open road.
Optimizing global trade is a daunting task, and a one size fits all approach will not be viable for all stages of the supply chain. The open nature of TradeLens seems to recognize this and could be the key to introducing true efficiency to the industry. While TradeLens focuses on ocean-going logistics, much of the increased efficiency could be lost once the cargo comes ashore if other systems, tailored to the ground supply chain, are not in place to take advantage of the hyper-organized data.
The ground supply chain, namely trucking, is far more fragmented and decentralized than the sea carriers TradeLens are optimizing their systems for. Thankfully, with the integration of other Hyperledger Fabric based blockchain systems, a continual flow of goods, records, and transactions is possible between different shipping mediums. Seamless integration between networks would allow blockchain platforms to provide maximum efficiency, while catering to the vastly different needs of the carriers they service.
97% of trucking companies in the U.S. are small and independent, operating with less than 20 trucks. Their scale of operation is incomparable to the behemoth, ocean-going, international shippers that facilitate multi-continental trade. Both roles are vital to the global economy, but blockchain solutions to their respective logistical needs have to be handled with care and dedication.
With decades of experience in the trucking industry, LaneAxis’s blockchain network helps aid shippers and ground carriers with all aspects of hauling goods efficiently. Through a simple button press on the mobile app, drivers are able to instantaneously acquire nearby loads, keeping empty trucks off the highway and saving valuable driving time. Immutable records eliminate wasteful and cumbersome paper trails, documenting trip logistics, safety records, and ensuring freight quality. Tokenization and smart contracts allow for immediate payment between shippers and carriers, while also speeding up unavoidable processes like fueling and maintenance. GPS tracking integration helps optimize routes based on traffic flow, protects drivers from legal disputes, and provides consumers with accurate and constantly updating delivery times. While these needs are not exclusive to ground shipping, the way in which they are handled must be. Driving occupies a unique space in the shipping industry. Trucks serve both long distance and local needs. Drivers share the road with cars and commuters. Safety procedures govern drive time, which is often wasted waiting for loads.
As global trade efficiency is increased by blockchain tech, domestic shipping must keep up, or cargo could bottleneck at ports, slowing down deliveries and driving up prices. As global trade continues its transformation for the digital age, all aspects of shipping must gear up and trim fat simultaneously. If the TradeLens platform is truly open and integrative, plugging in transport-specific blockchain networks such as LaneAxis will be imperative to maximizing trade efficiency.
Rick Burnett CEO, LaneAxis