Maersk and IBM have announced their intention to launch an industry-wide supply chain solution using blockchain technology.

The product was built in collaboration between the technology and shipping giants, based on the Hyperledger Fabric, to be made available to the logistics industry. It aims to help manage and track the paper trail of millions of shipping containers across the world and digitise the supply chain process.

According to the firms, 90% of goods in global trade are carried by the ocean shipping industry each year, and this solution could save the industry billions of dollars.

IBM and Maersk have conducted some pilots with various trading partners, government authorities and logistics companies to prove the commercial value of its project, but the scalable product will only be developed later this year, in collaboration with a network of shippers, freight forwarders, ocean carriers, ports and customs authorities.

“As a global integrator of container logistics with the ambition to digitise global trade, we are excited about this co-operation and its potential to bring substantial efficiency and productivity gains to global supply chains, while decreasing fraud and increasing security,” says Ibrahim Gokcen, chief digital officer, Maersk.

“The projects we are doing with IBM aim at exploring a disruptive technology such as blockchain to solve real customer problems and create new innovative business models for the entire industry. We expect the solutions we are working on will not only reduce the cost of goods for consumers, but also make global trade more accessible to a much larger number of players from both emerging and developed countries.”

Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice-president of industry platforms at IBM, adds: “Working closely with Maersk for years, we’ve long understood the challenges facing the supply chain and logistics industry and quickly recognised the opportunity for blockchain to potentially provide massive savings when used broadly across the ocean shipping industry ecosystem. Bringing together our collective expertise, we created a new model the industry will be able to use to help improve the transparency and efficiency of delivering goods around the globe.”

IBM opened an innovation centre in Singapore last year to explore blockchain applications in trade.