TradeLens, a blockchain-based global trade platform developed by Maersk and IBM, will soon become available in Russia.

Maersk has announced it has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Russian transport ministry, which the shipping line says will enable the implementation of TradeLens in the Russian market.

TradeLens will first launch a pilot in St Petersburg, which will see the city’s ports join an ecosystem of 100-plus companies and organisations already using the platform to digitise container documentation flows in the global supply chain.

Maersk has been developing TradeLens together with IBM since 2017, and went live with an early adopter programme last year. Based on blockchain technology, the platform enables parties to share and view real-time shipping data, digitalise and exchange trade documentation digitally, and automate businesses processes such as import and export clearance.

The system is believed to have the potential to significantly improve efficiency in shipping, an industry still largely dominated by manual, time-consuming and paper-based processes. During a trial last year, TradeLens helped reduce the transit time for shipments to the US by up to 40%, saving thousands of dollars.

The attributes of blockchain are ideally suited to large networks of disparate partners: it establishes a shared, immutable record of all transactions and allows permissioned parties to access data in real time.

The TradeLens ecosystem includes port and terminal operators, ocean shipping lines, customs authorities, freight forwarders and logistics companies, and the platform already processes over 10 million discrete shipping events and thousands of documents each week.

Last month, TradeLens was able to make a crucial announcement in its journey towards becoming an industry-wide solution: MSC and CMA CGM, the world’s second and fourth-largest container shipping companies, are now members of the platform. It was an important step because TradeLens has previously been criticised by rivals for being too dominated by Maersk.

The most recent agreement with Russian authorities will now help the platform to expand further and “gain significant presence in Russia”, Maersk says in a statement.

Yuriy Tsvetkov, Russia’s deputy transport minister and head of the federal maritime and river transport agency, adds: “The main result of the implementation of TradeLens, according to our expectations, should be an increase in the transparency of the contracting procedure by distributing information about supply and demand, conditions and operations between many participants of the transport and logistics processes.”