Digital trade finance network Contour has struck a partnership with Hong Kong-based blockchain consortium Global Shipping Business Network (GSBN) to streamline shipping and trade documentation processes for importers, exporters, banks and logistics providers.
Contour and GSBN, a not-for-profit technology consortium founded by some of the world’s top container lines and terminal operators, have announced the move to link their offerings and create an “end-to-end” digital solution.
GSBN, which aims to digitise maritime trade processes, launched its first blockchain-enabled solution last month, called Cargo Release. The consortium says that by digitising cargo release processes at the port of import, it can cut the time for cargo to be document-ready from “days to hours”.
Currently, the industry still relies on manual and paper-based document exchanges between various entities, including agents, consignees, shipping lines and terminals.
Contour’s central offering is the LC, for which the network has managed to reduce processing time by as much as 90% during testing, from an average of 10 days to under 24 hours end-to-end.
The partnership with GSBN aims to drive interoperability for users of their solutions, such as trading companies, logistics providers and financial institutions – and so further cut down documentation times and costs.
“For example, if you are an importer and use Contour for your trade finance processes and use GSBN for managing your shipments, port and customs clearance, then interoperability will allow the documents released to you from your bank/supplier in Contour to be forwarded to GSBN for their easy port and customs release process,” Contour’s chief product officer, Josh Kroeker, tells GTR.
He adds that Contour is also working with GSBN in determining how both solution providers will incorporate electronic bills of lading (eBLs) into their systems.
“In this case, an eBL could be created by a shipping company on GSBN and be forwarded to a shipper on Contour for presentation under a letter of credit. The process would continue through the banks on Contour and eventually to the buyer, who would surrender the eBL back to the shipping company on GSBN to collect their goods,” Kroeker notes.
While Contour had initially set its sights on digitising the LC process, GTR reported in June that the network was also looking to expand into open account trade – historically the preserve of competing network Marco Polo.
As for GSBN, the solution will have to vie for space in the market alongside TradeLens, a blockchain-powered global trade platform focused on the shipping industry that is backed by Maersk and IBM.
TradeLens went live with an early adopter programme in 2018, and has since built up a network of over 300 members including five of the six largest container shippers globally, including Maersk, MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company, Hapag-Lloyd, Ocean Network Express and CMA CGM.
GSBN has set its sights on the Southeast Asian market initially, having been incorporated in Hong Kong earlier this year.
The consortium launched Cargo Release in China last month, then announced this week that the product would also be rolled out by port operators Hutchison Ports and PSA International in Hong Kong, Singapore and Laem Chabang in Thailand.