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TradeLens global data-sharing platform shuttering

Blockchain-enabled visibility initiative ‘has not reached the level of commercial viability necessary to continue work’

Maersk and IBM launched TradeLens as a blockchain-enabled global trade platform in 2018. (Photo: Maersk)

A.P. Moller – Maersk and IBM announced Tuesday the dissolution of the blockchain-enabled TradeLens platform. 

“TradeLens was founded on the bold vision to make a leap in global supply chain digitization as an open and neutral industry platform. Unfortunately, while we successfully developed a viable platform, the need for full global industry collaboration has not been achieved. As a result, TradeLens has not reached the level of commercial viability necessary to continue work and meet the financial expectations of an independent business,” Rotem Hershko, head of business platforms for Maersk, said in the announcement. 

The platform will go offline by the end of the first quarter of 2023, according to the news release.

TradeLens was launched by IBM and GTD Solution, a division of Maersk, in August 2018 as an open and neutral platform underpinned by blockchain technology for the transparent and secure exchange of global trade information. 

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

Marc Bourdon, senior vice president of CMA CGM’s commercial agencies network, acknowledged in October 2020 that it was highly unusual for competitors to cooperate, particularly when it came to sharing 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 industrywide 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. 

At the time of Bourdon’s statement, TradeLens was gathering daily data from more than 600 ports and terminals around the world.

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.”

Tuesday’s announcement said Maersk is still committed to digitizing the supply chain “through other solutions to reduce trade friction and promote more global trade.” 

Hershko said TradeLens’ progress will be used as a steppingstone to advance Maersk’s digitization efforts and that the company looks forward to “harnessing the energy and ability of our technology talent in new ways.” 

The announcement did not say what roles, if any, TradeLens employees or its CEO will have at Maersk going forward. 

Kim Spalding, who was hired to lead TradeLens earlier this year, recently told FreightWaves her priorities for the platform.

“First, we want to help the industry scale digitization. One of those areas I’m focused on is partnerships. The second thing is just to focus on really great customer experiences, which means we want to continue to rapidly launch features that make our products better, and we want to expand the breadth, coverage and quality of the data that we have on the platform to help customers,” she said. 

Asked Tuesday what would become of Spalding and other TradeLens employees, a Maersk spokesman told FreightWaves, “At this point, we have no further comments.”

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Click here 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.