Shipping giant Maersk has teamed up with IBM to develop a blockchain-based system designed to streamline global trade.

The two companies have formed a joint venture — 51 per cent owned by Maersk — to commercialise the blockchain platform they began working on in June 2016.

The companies want to use the distributed ledger technology to digitise the end-to-end supply chain process for the entire global shipping ecosystem including manufacturers, shipping lines, freight forwarders, port and terminal operators and customs authorities.

Built on IBM’s blockchain platform, the goal is to provide more efficient and secure methods for conducting global trade. IBM will also contribute cloud-based open source technologies including AI, IoT and analytics, delivered via IBM Services, to help companies move and track goods digitally across international borders.

Upon regulatory clearance, solutions from the joint venture are expected to become available within six months.

“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,” said Vincent Clerc, chief commercial officer at Maersk and future chairman of the board of the new joint venture.

“By joining our knowledge of trade with IBM’s capabilities in blockchain and enterprise technology, we are confident this new company can make a real difference in shaping the future of global trade.”

The system aims to reduce the cost and complexity of moving goods around the globe by automating paperwork filings and providing end-to-end supply chain visibility.

Michael J. White, former president of Maersk Line in North America, is the CEO of the new company – which is yet to be given an official name.

“Today, a vast amount of resources are wasted due to inefficient and error-prone manual processes. The pilots confirmed our expectations that, across the industry, there is considerable demand for efficiency gains and opportunities coming from streamlining and standardising information flows using digital solutions,” White 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.”

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