Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Port of Antwerp tests blockchain for container handling

Steve Rogerson
July 6, 2017



Belgian firm T-Mining is working on a pilot project that will use blockchain technology to make container handling in the port of Antwerp more efficient and secure.
 
Using blockchain, processes that involve several parties – carriers, terminals, forwarders, hauliers, drivers, shippers and so on – can be securely digitised without any central parties being involved.
 
Just getting a container from point A to B frequently involves more than 30 different parties, with an average of 200 interactions between them. Given that many of these interactions are carried out by email, phone and even (still, nowadays) by fax, paperwork accounts for up to half of the cost of container transport.
 
“We aim to do something about this,” said Nico Wauters, CEO of T-Mining.
 
This Antwerp start-up has developed a solution for a recognised problem in the port. When a container arrives in the port it is collected from the terminal by a lorry driver or shipper. To ensure that the right person picks up the right container a PIN code is used. However, the PIN code is transmitted via a number of parties, which of course is not without risk. Somebody with bad intentions can simply copy the PIN code, which naturally can cause great problems.
 
“We have developed a very secure solution for this,” said Wauters. “Currently, when we want to transfer a valuable object we generally make use of a trusted intermediary to carry out the transfer. For instance, when you want to sell a house the notary not only carries out all the paperwork but also ensures that the money lands safely in your bank account while the buyer receives full title to the property, without any unpleasant surprises for either party. But this intermediary naturally does not work for free, and furthermore the additional step causes extra delay.”
 
The blockchain technology overcomes these issues, permitting safer and faster transfer of valuable objects, fully digitally and without an intermediary.
 
“With our blockchain platform the right truck driver is given clearance to collect a particular container, without any possibility of the process being intercepted,” said Wauters. “Furthermore our blockchain platform uses a distributed network, so that the transaction can go ahead only if there is consensus among all participating parties, thus excluding any attempts at fraud or undesired manipulations.”
 
A pilot project is running in the port of Antwerp with a limited number of parties.
 
“We want to test whether it all works smoothly in practice,” said Wauters. “Together with PSA, MSC, a forwarder and a transporter, we ensure secure handling of the first containers on our blockchain platform. Thanks to the city of Antwerp we even have an office in Singapore where we are working hard to introduce our solution there too. Our ambition is to serve the first paying customers by the end of this year.”