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Vodafone, Sumitomo partner Chainlink for trade blockchain interoperability

cargo ship trade logistics

Vodafone’s Digital Asset Broker (DAB) announced it completed a proof of concept (PoC) with Sumitomo CorporationChainlink Labs and InnoWave. The PoC enabled blockchain interoperability for a digital bill of lading. 

Vodafone’s DAB used Chainlink’s Cross Chain Interoperability Protocol (CCIP) for the PoC. It uses messages between the blockchains – both permissionless and permissioned – using a decentralized network. That’s the same solution recently used in a Swift PoC for tokenization trials.

Bills of lading represent the title to cargo in transit. When an exporter loads a container onto a ship, the ship provides a bill of lading to the exporter. In the simplest case, the exporter might courier a physical bill of lading to the importer so they can claim the cargo on arrival.

Electronic bills of lading

However, bills of lading are also critical documents supporting trade finance. Hence, they tend to be transferred between banks and across multiple systems, with many of these digital solutions using blockchain. Several trade finance platforms use blockchain. Multiple shipping solutions leverage DLT. And most of the dozen electronic bill of lading (eBL) offerings use blockchain. This latter point creates a headache for logistics firms because they don’t want to integrate with a dozen different blockchain solutions.

That said, most of these digital solutions are not yet heavily used. Last year just 2.1% of the 45 million bills of lading were digital. Several shipping trade bodies, including Swift, secured a commitment to go digital from the world’s largest cargo shipping carriers with the first mini deadline in 2025. 

Enabling interoperability will help shipping carriers achieve their commitments because it makes it easier for all the companies involved in logistics to adopt the solutions.

“Vodafone DAB and Chainlink are showing how their platforms can be combined to cut through this sea of incompatibility by bridging traditional markets with advanced decentralized platforms,” said Jorge Bento, CEO of Vodafone DAB. “This ensures seamless and secure exchanges of data and services across the global trade ecosystem, estimated to be worth over $30 trillion last year.”

Vodafone’s Digital Asset Broker

Stepping back, Vodafone’s DAB is a system that links IoT, blockchain and smart contracts to enable automation – the so-called Economy of Things. An IoT device has a sim card and digital identity software, turning it into a DAB digital passport. Vodafone gave an example of an IoT device attached to cargo alerting an insurer in case of a fire, triggering an automated claim. It previously provided examples related to the automotive sector.

That’s an area it’s exploring with Sumitomo. Earlier this year, Vodafone spun out DAB, with the Japanese firm taking a 20% stake. 

Apart from the PoC, Vodafone DAB will host a validator node on Chainlink’s Network.

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