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CMA CGM and MSC complete TradeLens integration

More than a year after signing on, shipping lines fully on board

Global container carriers CMA CGM and MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company announced Thursday they are now fully integrated onto the TradeLens blockchain-enabled shipping platform.

The digital platform, which is designed to help ensure a more fully integrated, timely and consistent view of logistics data for containerized freight around the world, is run on the IBM Cloud and IBM Blockchain

TradeLens was jointly developed by IBM and A.P. Møller – Maersk and launched as a beta product in August 2018. By the time a commercial product was offered in December 2018, more than 1 million shipping events per day were being published to the platform. 

CMA CGM and MSC joined TradeLens in May 2019, followed by Hapag-Lloyd and Ocean Network Express in July of last year. By December 2019, TradeLens was publishing 2 million events per day and its ecosystem included more than 175 organizations. 

CMA CGM and MSC, together with Maersk, will act as platform foundation carriers to help expand the ecosystem and platform operations and play key roles as validators on the blockchain network, according to the announcement.

Marc Bourdon, CMA CGM senior vice president of the commercial agencies network, acknowledged in the announcement from TradeLens that it is highly unusual for competitors to cooperate, particularly when it comes to the sharing of information. 

“Digitization is a cornerstone of the CMA CGM Group’s strategy aimed at providing an end-to-end solution tailored to our customers’ needs. An industry-wide collaboration like this is truly unprecedented. Only by working together and agreeing to a shared set of standards and goals are we able to enact the digital transformation that is now touching nearly every part of the global shipping industry,” Bourdon said.

CMA CGM announced on Oct. 2 that it had hired Nicolas Sekkaki, the chairman and CEO of IBM France since 2015, to execute its digitization and technology strategy as its executive vice president of IT, digital and transformation. 

“Digitization is the heart of the CMA CGM Group’s development strategy: a driver for growth, differentiation and performance,” CMA CGM said when announcing the hire. “A number of initiatives have already been taken to give the group’s customers access to the world’s most innovative technologies in the fields of blockchain, artificial intelligence and internet of things. In order to accelerate the industry’s digital transformation, the CMA CGM Group is recruiting the world’s best experts in the sector.” 

The integration of CMA CGM and MSC onto the TradeLens platform completes a digital transformation that has taken more than a year. TradeLens said an important milestone in the process was a 15-customer pilot involving more than 3,000 unique consignments, 100,000 events and 6,000 containers to ensure the platform distributed and shared shipment data across various supply chains with speed and accuracy.

Thursday’s announcement did not say whether the integration process was at all affected by a ransomware attack on CMA CGM, the world’s fourth-largest container shipping line, in late September. No. 2 MSC was knocked offline in April.  

MSC also has been investing heavily in digitization. When it launched its e-business tool Instant Quote in early July, it said, “At MSC, we recognize the importance of digitalization across the shipping industry. For that reason, we are continuously investing in and developing new technologies to make our services better for our customers.”

TradeLens members use the platform to connect within the ecosystem and share information needed for their shipments based on permissions — without sharing sensitive data. TradeLens is designed to make it possible to access data from the source in near real time, boost the quality of information, provide a comprehensive view of data as cargo moves around the world and help create a more timely, secured record of transactions. 

Today the TradeLens ecosystem extends to more than 10 ocean carriers and encompasses data from over 600 ports and terminals. TradeLens said it already has tracked 30 million container shipments, 1.5 billion events and roughly 13 million published documents.

Andre Simha, MSC’s global chief digital and information officer, called the TradeLens collaboration “an important initiative in the digitalization of global shipping and logistics, with the potential to help carriers and their customers to increase transparency and reduce errors and delays, all at a crucial time when the industry is rethinking and improving the resiliency of supply chains.”

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Click for more American Shipper/FreightWaves stories by Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills.

Kim Link Wills

Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills has written about everything from agriculture as a reporter for Illinois Agri-News to zoology as editor of the Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine. Her work has garnered awards from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Magazine Association of the Southeast. Prior to serving as managing editor of American Shipper, Kim spent more than four years with XPO Logistics.