Pioneering tech firm IBM has reached an agreement with one of Singapore’s leading shipping companies, Pacific International Lines (PIL), over a blockchain solution that seeks to simplify Bill of Lading documentation.

The crucial shipping document, which itemises a ship’s cargo as a consignment receipt, is set to be given a digital makeover by the technology, replacing traditional paper-based systems with a blockchain-tracked alternative.

The partnership with Pacific International Lines will see the launch of a new ‘e-BL’ electronic bill, which will exist solely within the blockchain environment.

The document is especially important in maritime and shipping law, both as proof of cargo ownership, a paper representation of the conditions of consignment, and as a transferable receipt for cargo at different stages of the shipping process.

With a view to speeding up the shipping supply chain, PIL Executive Director Lisa Teo said the blockchain platform would be a significant improvement on the currency Bill of Lading process. In a statement, Teo said, “Traditionally, information flow is predominantly handled via manual processes and the supply chain is slowed down when there are many points of communication within its framework.”

According to the PIL executive, “The use of blockchain technology to allow for the direct exchange of documents and information via the decentralized network to boost transparency, eliminate disputes forgeries and unnecessary risks will be key for this industry to progress.”

With the bill of lading transferred between parties, there is an in-built scope for loss and fraud – issues the blockchain solution will eliminate.

The project comes around a year after IBM reached an agreement with the Port of Authority of Singapore to explore applications of blockchain technology relevant to the sector.

At the time of the agreement, the CEO of the Port Authority of Singapore Tan Chong Mong said that blockchain in shipping could help streamline international trade. According to Tan, “Blockchain has the potential to reduce inefficiencies and gaps within the supply chain, promote more cost-efficient transactions and facilitate the continued growth in world trade.”

The project is the latest to come from IBM in the shipping sector, one of several areas where the IT giant is pioneering new technologies on the blockchain.

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