IBM and Maersk, a shipping giant, have led an in-depth research on the global trade blockchain platform. The companies have already signed up 94 firms and given the platform a name: TradeLens. The new firm has bought together various firms, no matter what their type. Harbor operators, customs establishments, logistics firms and competitive carriers, like Pacific International Lines, all are using the platform.
With the initial stages all set, TradeLens is now open for membership and is predicted to be available commercially by the year end. And to send this message across that TradeLens is an open platform, IBM and Maersk have described it as “joint collaboration”. Michael White, head of global trade digitization at Maersk, told CoinDesk;
At the time of the launch, we wanted to be clear that we were not offering a bespoke Maersk- or IBM-only solution. It was never about a joint venture.
Even though, Maersk and IBM are the only two shareholders, invested in the tech, White focused on the aspect that it is open to everyone. However an IBM spokesperson pointed out that the initial 49/51 percent partnership does not apply under the alliance contract that is being upheld by both. Both IBM and Maersk are going to sell away the right to use to the TradeLens platform. The client then has to get in touch with the customer and get all the revenue rather than distributing it with the IBM. This new structure lets them have a better, more flexible solution.
Common interests of IBM and Maersk playing out well
Since TradeLens is standing on a platform built by IBM Blockchain, it shows a potential interaction between IBM and Hyperledger projects. The vice president of global trade at IBM Blockchain, Todd Scott said;
We have architected all of these solutions so that it’s very easy for data to be exchanged between the two different blockchains – take TradeLens and IBM Food Trust for example – if clients were to be inclined.
To aid in the growth of this open supply system, TradeLens is opening its APIs for shipping, while working with standards.
“On top of the bedrock of blockchain technology we are working with standards, and also have 125 or so APIs, and we are going to give all that access to the developer community so they can even create additional technologies of their own on top of it, ” said Scott.
“But not everyone is seeing this as an innovative and effective addition to the industry” said Sean Edwards, chairman of the International Trade and Forfaiting Association.
It’s fine for them [IBM and Maersk] to say ‘we are open for everyone to join,’ but all they are really saying is ‘come and use our system,’
Edwards, the head of legal at Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation Europe, said that letting everyone come together is not the issue not neither is it the solution. He says that he has been trying to create ecosystems such as the Universal Trade Network (UTN), but has been unsuccessful so far. Speaking about other blockchain projects designed especially for banks to enhance the trade finances, Edwards said that the situation may turn into one where the clients have a variety of passwords and systems that are used. Banks and other companies may need to have their set ups on various platforms.
“Either there are common enough standards that all the different underlying technologies can actually speak to each other, or you have initiatives that are so big everybody uses it. I don’t think somebody like Maersk is going to solve that.” said Edwards.
HSBC stealing the spotlight
TradeLens is not the only firm trying to stay afloat. Apart from this well known supply chain firm which is connecting about 1.5 million businesses across 190 countries, Citigroup, the banking giant is showing up. This is making it harder for TradeLens to have the spotlight for itself and come across as unbiased and therefore demand all the attention. The Maersk side of the collaboration team is a unique and open firm with zero involvement with the marketable activities of Maersk Line and Damco.
Cherry on top, the platform has features relating to privacy protections. White said;
Sensitive information from other carriers are kept on separate nodes, so Carrier A cannot see Carrier B ‘s information or carrier C’s information,
Seeing farther in to the future, it is possible for TradeLens to be seen as the trade finance blockchain platform designed by IBM Blockchain and Hyperledger. Even though a probability is far off in the future, an all-inclusive platform can be imagined where it would be super quick to make transactions in case of emergencies. Maersk’s White stated,
We have found is there are number of industries and institutions including financial institutions and insurance companies, that are looking to take advantage of this platform.
It is known so far that IBM and Maersk have agreed to reap multiple benefits while awaiting a world of opportunity in regards to landing clients such as finance banks and marine insurers.