IBM and Maersk Form Joint Blockchain Venture Aimed at Modernizing Trade Management Technology

Pending merger approval by regulators, by the second half of 2018 IBM and A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S will launch a joint company utilizing blockchain technology to manage cargo shipping. Danish-based Maersk is the world’s largest container shipping line and will own 51% of the venture, while IBM will provide the back-end support for the technology and own 49%. After two years of testing with Maersk and an assertive effort to promote its blockchain services in the transportation sector, IBM will have a significant opportunity to demonstrate its capabilities.  On its first day, the new firm will track 18% of ocean containerized trade.

Blockchain technology is viewed by many as a more secure, efficient method of sharing trade and logistics data amongst the many parties involved in a given transaction. By simultaneously sharing secure, consistent data with buyers, sellers, shippers, forwarders, etc. the technology is said to improve tracking, transparency, and security.  From one perspective, it serves the functions of a single window to simultaneously share data with multiple parties, but by virtue its inherent encryption, it provides more security than traditional single window software models. Of course, entities still conducting paper-based transactions would benefit through all the automated aspects of blockchain.
As blockchain technology is increasingly used in the private trade sector, Customs agencies around the world will need to consider how they adapt. At some point, they may need to adopt blockchain themselves, either to adapt to industry practices or because it becomes a more effective and efficient way for government to conduct business itself. The IBM/Maersk venture should provide some insight into what that adaptation may look like.

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