IBM’s foray into blockchain is one of the most interesting and inspiring in the recent times. The tech giant is now advancing into the world of distributed ledgers via TradeLens, a shipping solution developed with Maersk. Following up on their January announcement, the two companies will work together to create a global supply chain deeply embedded into the shipping network.

Quicker, More Secure Global Trade

The partnership between the two companies was formed to make global trade more secure. It would bring various parties involved in the trade onto the same platform and execute a trade efficiently and quickly on an immutable blockchain, resulting in better support for sharing of information and transparency. The TradeLens early adopter program has already roped in 94 organizations that are either actively involved or have promised to participate in the platform.


The open standard platform connects over 20 ports and terminal operators around the globe. Some important ports and terminals connected to the platform are  PSA Singapore, Modern Terminals in Hong Kong, PortConnect, PortBase, International Container Terminal Services Inc., Port of Rotterdam, Port of Bilbao, Port of Halifax, among others. The entire network will cover 234 marine gateways.

Apart from Maersk Line, Pacific International Lines (PIL) and Hamburg Sud will also participate as global container carriers. The customs authorities of Peru, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Australia and the Netherlands have also agreed to participate. The pilots of this platform will also involve the participation of customs brokers like Guler & Dinamik and Ransa, along with freight forwards, logistics and transportation companies like Kotahi, DAMCO, PLH Trucking Company, CEVA Logistics, Agility, WorldWide Alliance and Ancotrans. Beneficial cargo owner (BCO) groups like Umit Bisiklet and Torre Blanca/Camposol will also be involved.

How Does TradeLens Work?

IBM’s blockchain technology underscores the TradeLens platform, which enables the creation of a digital supply chain and helps in onboarding multiple partners in trade and logistics. Everyone enjoys a single-shared view of the transaction without compromising confidentiality or privacy. All participants in a transaction or a network can communicate more effectively. Documents related to shipping and customs can also be stored, while sensor data and Internet-o-Things data can also be utilized to maintain and monitor the container’s weight or temperature.

The trade document module is currently in beta, called ClearWay. It provides a seamless cross-government, a cross-organizational process that leads to an effective exchange of information and is backed by a non-repudiable and secure audit trail. During the 12-month trial, IBM’s platform worked to reduce documentation errors and information delays. In some examples, the transit time of shipments was reduced by 40 percent and saved several thousand dollars in cost.

The platform has captured over 154 million shipping events, including documents like bills of lading, invoices and customs documents, and even recorded gate-in times. The data growth on the platform is exceptional, currently growing by over one million each day.

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