According to the Port of Antwerp, getting a container from point A to point B often involves more than 30 parties and 200 interactions. Given that many of these transactions are still carried out by e-mail, phone and fax, paperwork accounts for up to half of the cost of container transport.
“We aim to do something about this,” says Nico Wauters, CEO of Belgian software startup T-Mining. His firm has developed a solution for a specific data handling problem at the Port of Antwerp: when a container arrives today, it is collected from the terminal in Antwerp by a truck driver or shipper, who is in possession of a PIN code. The PIN code is transmitted through a number of parties, creating the risk of theft or fraud.
Wauters compares the inefficiency of this process to the system for real estate transactions. “Currently, when we want to transfer a valuable object we generally make use of a trusted intermediary to carry out the transfer," says Wauters. "For instance, when you want to sell a house the notary not only carries out all the paperwork but also ensures that the money lands safely in your bank account while the buyer receives full title to the property, without any unpleasant surprises for either party. But this intermediary naturally does not work for free, and furthermore the additional step causes extra delay.”
But when blockchain protocols are used for the transfer of data, no intermediary is required. “With our blockchain platform the right truck driver is given clearance to collect a particular container, without any possibility of the process being intercepted. Furthermore our blockchain platform uses a distributed network, so that the transaction can go ahead only if there is consensus among all participating parties, excluding any attempts at fraud or undesired manipulations," Wauter says.
A pilot project is currently running in the port of Antwerp with a limited number of parties. “We want to test whether it all works smoothly in practice,” says Wauters. T-Mining has already handled its first container transactions in Antwerp, in cooperation with PSA and MSC. And it has global ambitions. "Thanks to the City of Antwerp we even have an office in Singapore where we are working hard to introduce our solution there too. Our ambition is to serve the first paying customers by the end of this year,” he says.