Latin American Terminals Join TradeLens


Published Oct 24, 2019 6:25 PM by The Maritime Executive

Over 50 ports and terminals from different Latin American countries are now working with TradeLens, a blockchain-based digital platform jointly developed by IBM and Maersk. 

The system digitizes trade documentation and has the support of five of the six largest global container shipping lines, representing more than half of the global vessel capacity. Currently, TradeLens processes about 10 million shipping events every week.

According to the IDB, about 90 percent of world trade has a port as its origin and destination, and ECLAC indicates that in 2018 the activity of the main container ports in Latin America exceeded 53 million TEUs, reaching almost 10 percent of world production. Over the last decades the region has experienced a breakthrough in the operation of its ports, increasing operational efficiency by more than 20 percent. However, this is still far from more advanced countries. 

The terminals that have joined TradeLens include Terminal Zárate in Argentina, Terminal Puerto Rosario in Argentina, Terminal de Buenaventura in Colombia, Port of Santos in Brasil, Terminal Pacífico Sur Valparaíso in Chile and San Vicente International Terminal in Chile.

Earlier this month, Global Container Terminals Inc. joined the TradeLens supply chain platform. The company operates four strategically located, big ship ready terminals on the west and east coast of North America.

Collaboration Needed

Nadia Hewett, project Lead for Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology at the World Economic Forum’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, says that transport companies are starting to understand the benefits of blockchain initiatives. “Every day more and more are recognizing its potential to solve pain points, facilitate automation, create transparency, increase efficiency and boost profit margins,” she said. “Large carriers and different industry groups have come to us saying, 'we’ve done the proof of concepts, we understand the value of blockchain technology, but we also now understand that we can’t do this by ourselves. We have to work with our competitors.”

She says CEOs are realizing that collaboration around blockchain throughout the shipping industry and from end-to-end of the global supply chain is essential to ensure full and fair adoption of the technology. “While the rewards of collaboration will be great, agreeing on what constitutes a fair and well-designed governance system, let alone a joint blockchain platform, poses challenges. The transportation industry has a very complex stakeholder landscape. You also have multiple jurisdictions because it’s cross-border. And traditionally, in this industry, there’s a lack of willingness to share data. Many industry collaborative initiatives have fallen apart.

“To increase the likelihood of success and thereby maximize the benefits of blockchain along value chains, we launched the 'Blockchain is a Team Sport: Making Blockchain Consortia Work' project to foster impartial industry and ecosystem-wide blockchain collaboration. The goal of the project is to create a framework to guide industries like shipping to reach consensus on what constitutes fair, neutral and robust consortia governance—in terms of rules, cost allocation and intellectual property—and what makes for a joint industry blockchain platform that’s well-designed, so it is sustainable.”