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Unchained: CargoChain to ease supply chain data sharing

CargoChain aims to make it easier for all the parties in the supply chain – shippers, truckers, ports, authorities, everyone, to share what data they want, with who they want, how they want, when they want. It uses BlockChain to provide security and trust.

Jade Logistics Group, a New Zealand-based provider of seaport management software, has announced the launch of CargoChain, its new blockchain-augmented business for easy data sharing.

Switzerland-based CargoChain is essentially a platform for more easily and accurately sharing data such as text, video, documents and images between the many different parties in the supply chain during a cargo transport. Blockchain is used to verify that the data is correct and has not been changed in any way. CargoChain can be used in addition to other forms of data transfer such as Electronic Data Interchange.

“The high level message is that we are trying to make it easy for all parties to share what info they want, when they want, with who they want. We want to provide opportunities to solve problems without smaller parties needing to build an Enterprise Resource Planning system,” Tony Davis, the chief marketing officer at CargoChain, told FreightWaves in Australia.

Multiple parties can post data onto the platform, which can then auto-complete such tasks as providing data that is required by supply chain partners or officials such as customs authorities. Alternatively, customers can write their own mini-programmes to do such jobs. CargoChain offers a variety of tools for writing software to manipulate data. It is envisaged by executives at CargoChain that, ultimately, the user-community will create a variety of its own tools for use on the platform.

“The vision is to provide a ‘web-store’ on top of CargoChain so the development community can carry out its own development,” Davis said.

The new business has its origins in conversations between Jade Logistics, customers and carriers, about the difficulties in sharing data between supply chain parties.

Davis gave two examples of inefficiencies in the supply chain. He told FreightWaves that one of the major maritime carriers tracked a relatively simple origin-to-destination cargo transport. The carrier discovered that over 300 documents were needed to make the shipment happen. “And most of that time the physical cargo was waiting, it was waiting for the administration to catch up,” Davis commented.

Another example is in Australia. A large importer of cars to Australia unloads the vehicles dockside where the vehicles must sit until three different sets of service providers have finished their jobs. The importer has to keep all the cars on the dock until all the jobs are done. Only then can all the cars be released, and then all at once.

“We are building an app that allows each car to be cleared and released from the dock much more quickly. It saves up to three days – meanwhile real estate at a port is at a premium. The supply chain is quite antiquated on the digital side – it hasn’t kept up with the physical. Also there are so many parties involved. The data goes through so many hands which leads to repetition, data errors and a lack of visibility,” Davis told FreightWaves.

Turning to the business side of CargoChain, Davis explained that the new business does not as yet have any paying customers. Davis explained that the strategy is to work with the existing port-operating customers of Jade Logistics, which has terminal operating software deployed in 125 terminals around the world. The market for the new platform is, potentially, the whole of the supply chain. But, narrowing that down a little, Davis said that the management of CargoChain is currently looking at ports and the larger New Zealand shippers.

“The typical platform play is to gain core customers and then platform [usage] spreads from there,” David said.

Target customers could include maritime carriers, ports, other entities in the supply chain, and landside carriers.

“We’re trying to democratise the supply chain and give everyone a voice – everyone from a one-man band up to operators of large fleets.”

Davis acknowledges that CargoChain is not the only software on the market aimed at increasing cargo visibility and reducing the burden of data administration. Acknowledging that there has been “an explosion” of systems available on the market in the last two to three years, he argues that CargoChain is trying to be an “enablement platform,” that provides tools and infrastructure rather than be a specific product that solves a specific problem.

Davis also says that CargoChain is independent too, arguing that the some of the alternative systems are offered by actors in the supply chain. “We don’t have any skin in the game,” he commented.

CargoChain has been in research and development mode in Switzerland, funded from Jade Logistics’ balance sheet, and has been developed using the expertise of domain-experts for the last five years. Accordingly, Davis doesn’t believe that the system is easily imitable by new entrants.

“The architecture and so on in CargoChain is not something you could do overnight. There’s a lot of deep domain knowledge. It wouldn’t be easy to replicate and it would take a long time.”

Applications are in development for a number of Australian and New Zealand customers and pilots are also underway, according to a statement from CargoChain.