Three of the top five biggest container line groups and four of the largest global container terminal operators have signed on as shareholders to a CargoSmart-led data sharing initiative, a move expected to stoke competition in the race to develop platforms that link carriers, shippers, ports, terminals, customs authorities, and banks.
The shipping lines joining the Global Shipping Business Network (GSBN) include COSCO Shipping (as well as subsidiary line OOCL), CMA CGM, and Hapag-Lloyd, while Hutchison Ports, PSA International, COSCO Ports, and the Shanghai International Port Group have all joined on the terminal operator side.
The GSBN was created in November 2018, the same year Maersk and IBM unveiled their own blockchain-based data sharing and container visibility platform TradeLens, a product that is currently being sold by both companies.
The GSBN is a non-profit data exchange platform, CargoSmart said Thursday in announcing that the shareholders had agreed on a governance structure. The shareholders had previously agreed to participate in the GSBN in July 2019. Of note, CMA CGM and Hapag-Lloyd are both shareholders in the GSBN and participants in TradeLens.
CargoSmart said in a statement that establishing a governance model paves the way for regulatory approval, the next step before the consortium can be officially established, which could “lead the development of innovative applications to create value to stakeholders in the supply chain.”
In a statement, CargoSmart said it “will be the technology solutions provider and platform operator for the GSBN.” It’s unclear at this point if other solutions providers could develop applications using GSBN data.
“The signed shareholders’ agreement symbolizes an important milestone towards securing an industry-wide secured digital collaboration platform that aims to benefit all parties in the global supply chain,” Martin Gnass, managing director of IT for Hapag-Lloyd, said in the statement. “We expect the trusted blockchain platform will accelerate the sharing of verified logistics and cargo data, streamline business operations across the whole supply chain, and create value to each stakeholder.”
Passing the first test
The GSBN conducted a pilot in November with eTradeConnect, a multi-bank blockchain consortium in Hong Kong facilitated by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA), to access relevant data from ocean carriers and terminals to shorten the shipping documentation validation process those banks typically undertake to approve financing services for shippers.
CargoSmart said that type of use of GSBN data is an example of the power that could be unleashed if third parties can trust the core shipping data being exchanged between carriers, terminals, and other entities tied to a shipment.
“It also demonstrated how the GSBN’s unique combination of carriers and terminal operators can provide a more balanced perspective, bringing up new ideas to transform the industry by going beyond the conventional carrier-centric business model,” the statement said.
A critical element of the success of the GSBN may be its uptake among shippers and forwarders, something that has been a stumbling block thus far for TradeLens, which has signed on more than 100 entities worldwide as participants, including seven of the top 11 container lines.
Shippers and forwarders that have spoken to JOC.com have been skeptical of whether blockchain-backed approaches to data sharing are worth the investment. They have also questioned whether carrier-led platforms are best suited to foster such data-sharing platforms.