Blockchain and the Maritime Industry
By Corey D. Ranslem, IMSA
The mainstream popularity of crypto-currencies has exploded in the past couple of years. News coverage on the currencies and their wild movements is covered almost hourly via business news and now mainstream media. However, there is a very interesting technology called Blockchain that is used to organize Bitcoin transactions in a distributed journal. Blockchain is now getting almost as much media coverage as Bitcoin.
Blockchain technology was developed to manage Bitcoin transactions in a distributed format where the information within the individual “blocks” or transactions could not be altered by either party in the transaction. The information within the Blockchain is open and viewable to each party involved within the specific transaction. If new information is needed for the transaction a new “block” is created that depends completely on the previous block. It is a great way to build a potentially immutable transaction ledger (https://www.multichain.com/blog/2017/05/blockchain-immutability-myth/).
IBM (https://www.ibm.com/blockchain/platform/) created one of the initial platforms, called Hyperledger, to build and expand Blockchain related software programs. Hyperledger (https://www.hyperledger.org/) has currently five basic frameworks for building Blockchain related software applications. Hyperledger now resides with the Linux Foundation and is completely open source. Developers from around the world work on various Blockchain related projects and issues through Hyperledger so issues can be identified earlier with much better solutions than if one single company or organization held the technology.
Blockchain is extremely useful to help organize, track, and eventually reconcile business transactions that involve multiple parties. So, there are potentially thousands of different uses for Blockchain technology in many different industries including the maritime industry.
Within the maritime industry a substantial joint venture partnership started in December of 2017 between Danish shipping giant Maersk (https://www.maerskline.com/) and IBM (https://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/53602.wss). IBM and Maersk came together before the partnership to determine if there was viability to use Blockchain in the maritime industry by conducting an experiment. They tracked the movement of a container of flowers from Mombasa, Kenya to Rotterdam using Blockchain. The experiment was successful in proving a use for Blockchain in the maritime industry. This partnership is initially concentrating on the insurance piece for using Blockchain in the maritime industry, but I am sure will eventually get into many other aspects within the maritime industry.
One example would be to apply Blockchain technology to the movement of containers around the world. There are several companies and individuals involved with all aspects of moving shipping containers full of goods around the world. These transactions many times are very inefficient adding additional costs throughout the supply chain that are then eventually paid by the end user. Blockchain is a much more effective way to organize the movement of containers ensuring all information is visible by all parties involved thereby reducing costs, improving delivery times (Just in Time Shipping) and tremendously improving the overall process to ship goods.
We see a number of potential uses here at IMSA for Blockchain technology and are working with our technology team to determine the viability of the technology within the safety, security and risk management space. It is exciting to see how this technology could help make some much needed improvements to how we do what we do in the maritime industry.
Make sure you check out our VLOG on Blockchain: https://youtu.be/6KuXy1Ov2yM
Corey D. Ranslem is the CEO IMSA and a recognized expert on maritime security. He hosts the companies weekly Maritime Video Blog on You Tube. He has been in maritime security and law enforcement for over 24 years; serving eight years with the U.S. Coast Guard. You can follow him on Twitter.