Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

IBM blockchain trial to improve Singapore supply chain

Steve Rogerson
October 16, 2018

Singapore containership operator Pacific International Lines (PIL) is collaborating with IBM on a blockchain trial to design and create an electronic bill of lading that will enhance the documentation process in supply chain management.
The PIL-IBM collaboration was supported by Maritime & Port Authority of Singapore, Singapore Shipping Association, Infocomm Media Development Authority, Singapore Customs (National TradePlatform), and Bank of China.
A bill of lading is the crucial piece of documentation in the facilitation of international trade as it contains legal and commercial information such as evidence of contract of carriage, receipt of goods and title of the goods.
Traditionally, a bill of lading is a physical document that banks rely on to provide trade financing. The bill of lading is usually mailed to various parties leaving it open to fraud, loss of the original document and document handling costs resulting in inefficiency across the supply chain.
To improve the process, PIL and IBM have proposed using an electronic bill of lading (e-BoL) to streamline and replicate the paper trail online on a blockchain ledger created by IBM. The e-BoL should do away with the hard copy paper trail, cut unnecessary handling costs and the possibility of fraud.
“This is a big step forward for PIL,” said Lisa Teo, executive director of PIL. “As an international shipping company, we believe we have a role to play in enhancing efficiencies within the intermodal transport logistics ecosystem. Working with a complex logistic network comprising ports and terminals, agencies, government entities, banks and shippers, systematic supply chain management is increasingly important to lower costs through the chain by cutting unnecessary expense, movements and handling.”
The team plans to extend the e-BoL to shadow an end-to-end shipment in real time. The creation of the electronic bill of lading will be in line with PIL’s goal of the creation of intermodal transport logistics ecosystem that incorporates the use of blockchain.
“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,” said Teo. “The use of blockchain technology to allow for the direct exchange of documents and information via the decentralised network to boost transparency, eliminate disputes, forgeries and unnecessary risks will be key for this industry to progress.”