A Singapore-based company has gone live with a solution that allows trade documents to be registered and exchanged securely on blockchain.

Focusing initially on Asia, the founders are positioning the platform to play a role in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The Open Trade Blockchain (OTB), launched by Global eTrade Services (GeTS), allows any entity in the trade cycle – be it the buyer, seller, shipper or freight forwarder – to register their documentation on the platform. Other parties involved in the trade can subsequently verify that the documentation is legitimate through an automated matching process.

Powered by blockchain technology, the system is designed to deal with real-world events, such as an exporter’s email account being hacked or commercial invoices within an email being fraudulently changed.

Documents being on the platform include certificates of origin, commercial invoices, shipping and freight-forwarding documents.

Users can drag and drop the documents onto the OTB, where other permissioned players in the trade cycle can access them. For parties with large volumes of documentation, APIs are available so that they can automatically extract documents stored on internal systems onto the OTB.

Already, around 100,000 documents have been processed on the platform, mostly using GeTS’ existing user base. The firm has also partnered with a number of organisations and agencies, whose clients are now using the platform as well.

As well as referring their own clients to use the system, these organisations can also make use of the OTB’s web service APIs to develop their own interoperable blockchain solutions.

GeTS’ partners host nodes on the platform, which was developed by GeTS using Multichain, a permissioned blockchain framework that the company’s CEO, Chong Kok Keong, says was chosen because of its security and “ability to manage the extraction of data points in huge volume”.

The “digital silk road”

The geography of partners was chosen with an eye on China’s BRI.

“With OTB linking China to the rest of the region, it will provide a strategic edge to businesses wanting to participate in China’s BRI initiatives as it offers greater connectivity with the country’s digital Silk Road,” a GeTS statement reads.

The platform’s current user base of more than 4,000, which includes customers of GeTS’ existing solutions (such as export and import management, trade processing, regulatory and compliance software), as well as users of its partners’ services, can use the OTB for free. The company will begin to charge for services bolted onto the top of this “early building block” further down the line.

No banks have signed up as yet, but Chong says discussions are ongoing. There are ambitions to host transactional documents on the OTB in the future.

GeTS launched one year ago and is a subsidiary of the more established fintech company CrimsonLogic.

Singapore has been a hive of blockchain related activity in recent months, as the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) continues to work towards the launch of the Global Trade Connectivity Network (GTCN – a trade finance solution built on blockchain with the Hong Kong Monetary Authority) early next year.

In May, the Singapore International Chamber of Commerce announced plans to move electronic certificates of origin (eCOs) onto a blockchain-based platform in a bid to improve transparency and security.

In the same month, Arkratos, a Singapore company linked to trading house Rhodium Resources, launched a commodity trading platform built with blockchain technology.

Earlier in the year, Pacific International Lines (PIL), PSA International (formerly the Singapore port authority) and IBM Singapore successfully tested a blockchain platform on a supply chain network between Singapore and China.

This latest effort by GeTS can be viewed in line with MAS’ top-down strategy of connecting other parts of Asia to the blockchain activity in the city state.

“Partnering with GeTS from Singapore on its OTB makes good business sense,” says Xu Xucheng, general manager at Suzhou Cross e-Commerce. “We are already seeing an increase in cross-border trade volumes, and with GeTS’ blockchain solution enhancing the security of the trade documents, it will definitely help to strengthen Suzhou’s position as an e-Commerce hub for China.”