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COSCO, Hapag-Lloyd back GSBN blockchain shipping network, now incorporated

container shipping cosco

Today the Global Shipping Business Network (GSBN) said it incorporated as a non-profit in Hong Kong. The blockchain shipping network that aims to digitize trade boasts three top-ten container shippers and four port terminal operators, most of them in Asia.

The founding shareholders are COSCO SHIPPING LINES, COSCO SHIPPING PORTS, Hapag-Lloyd, Hutchison Ports, OOCL (COSCO owned), SPG Qingdao Port, PSA International and Shanghai International Port Group.

It’s been more than a year since the GSBN said it was planning to incorporate. A big holdup was getting regulatory approvals which it has now received across multiple jurisdictions. 

The concept was first announced in late 2018. With the delay, it has lost one of the planned shareholders, CMA CGM, which is now involved in the IBM, Maersk solution TradeLens. However, it hasn’t all been one-way traffic. Shareholder Hapag-Lloyd also joined TradeLens but is no longer listed as a participant, and port operator PSA is a member of both solutions.

Both the TradeLens and GSBN solutions aim to digitize logistics data.

“The foundation of GSBN symbolizes an important milestone towards establishing an industry-wide, secure, digital collaboration platform that aims to benefit all parties in the global supply chain,” said Martin Gnass, Managing Director IT of Hapag-Lloyd.

With the ongoing pandemic, the need to digitize shipping documentation has never been more pressing. Typically, releasing cargo involves manually presenting a bill of lading that has often been couriered from the ship’s departure point. GSBN says the first solution is for a touch-free cargo release. Typically this would involve an electronic bill of lading.

“The Cargo Release pilot has enabled hundreds of our customers to eliminate their current manual steps and remove the need for any physical exchanges of paper documents,” said Kenny Ye, COO of OOCL. “This not only reduced the overall time from 2-3 days to 1-2 hours, but also provided health benefits with regard to COVID-19.”

This week, COSCO SHIPPING said it was using a blockchain cargo release solution at China’s Wuhu Port in collaboration with Shanghai International Port Group. Although both organizations are GSBN backers, GSBN confirmed the solution did not use GSBN but said it expects “tight collaboration/interoperability with COSCO SHIPPING initiatives in China and more importantly globally”. 

Trade finance is also on the GSBN roadmap and it was previously involved in a trial with Hong Kong trade finance network eTradeConnect.

“We aim to increase the speed of logistics and the ease of conducting trade globally, ultimately benefitting all parties involved. We are here to simplify trade for all,” said Bertrand Chen, CEO of GSBN.

In the coming months, the plan is to open up membership with multiple tiers, in part depending on data volume committed to the platform.

The solution uses enterprise blockchain Hyperledger Fabric and the partner is new Hong Kong startup IQAX. GSBN was originally driven by technology provider CargoSmart and several of the personnel work for both firms. It was confirmed that the companies are affiliates, and IQAX said that it “inherits the initial development of the blockchain platform” from CargoSmart.

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