Standard Chartered has become the first financial institution (FI) to “formally” use TradeLens, the blockchain platform for global trade.

The bank is in the process of onboarding onto the system and will be the first live user of the platform’s bill of lading verifier (BLV) solution, with a spokesperson for the bank telling GTR that it expects to start using BLV for real world transactions in May.

In joining the IBM and Maersk-built platform, Standard Chartered has become part of a network of over 150 members made up of government authorities, ports and terminals, as well as ocean carriers and intermodal providers.

Since it went live with an early adopter programme in 2018, TradeLens has worked to make global trade more efficient and secure by allowing parties to share and view real-time shipping data and exchange trade documentation through the platform. Today, it captures tens of thousands of documents each week.

According to Todd Scott, vice president of global trade solutions at IBM, the BLV product will reduce the verification time for a bill of lading from around five business days to a matter of minutes.

By using BLV, IBM says banks can access a single digital platform to verify bills of lading rather than having to go to each individual ocean carrier’s website to “search for pieces of the information” and manually enter this data into their systems.

Scott tells GTR: “Carrier data is on the platform, which means that we don’t just have the visibility of the events that are tied to the movement of a consignment – we have the documents that are assigned to it, including a bill of lading.”

He adds: “This solution essentially looks in the system. It doesn’t give the bank the ability to see everything – we’re still very much adhering to all of the governance standards that are built into the blockchain solution – but let’s say the bank wanted to verify something that a company was trying to move. If they have that bill of lading number, and they have the correct spelling of a company name, then TradeLens would be able to say, yes, this is a legitimate bill of lading.”

The move follows IBM’s announcement in July last year that it would develop an application marketplace for TradeLens, with financial and insurance services built atop the blockchain platform.

Speaking at the 2019 Blockchain Summit in London, Richard Stockley, blockchain business development executive of global trade at IBM, said: “We are developing a marketplace where different players in the supply chain can actually build services, where they can work with the connectivity to enhance trade, provide services and commercialise them.”

Discussing its potential for countering fraud, he said that trade finance banks could use TradeLens to verify the authenticity of documents including bills of lading.