The digital transformation of the trade industry is a theme I keep returning to in this blog. If anyone was unaware of how digitised shipping already is, last summer’s cyber-attack surely was evidence enough of how far we’ve come—and how much further we must go.

There is no turning back. In a network business like ours, we strongly believe that the ability to protect, analyse and utilise data is essential to be able to offer the customers more services, higher reliability and better visibility into the transport of their valuable goods.

Therefore, I’m proud to announce today, after an extended period of research and collaboration, that Maersk and IBM intend to form of a joint-venture company, that will accelerate the digitisation of global trade as well as remove waste and create new opportunities for all participants in global supply chain.

At the heart of the new joint venture is an open digital platform that will enable easy access and sharing of data between supply chain parties as well as a space where participants can develop digital solutions for themselves and their customers. A network of networks, so to speak.

Maersk has a lot of digital projects in development, many focused on improving our customers’ experience or how we operate. However, the interconnectedness of global trade means that some of the biggest challenges we face also affect many other parties. Throughout the ecosystem of trade – from the customer to the shipping lines, port operators, freight forwarders and authorities – paper-based and error-prone processes are choking the free flow of goods. There is a strong need for joint solutions!

It is important for me to stress that the platform will be open to all and neutral in nature. All parties will be able to use the solutions, including competitors to Maersk and IBM. That’s why we spin it off in a separate company with clear rules that protect the corporate data provided by the players in the ecosystem.

Together with IBM, we have created the first two applications that will be on the platform, one facilitating Paperless Trade and the other creating better visibility for the Shipping Information Pipeline. The first digitises trade documentation using blockchain technology to securely submit, stamp and approve documents for clearance and cargo movement. The second gives complete visibility of shipment events through a supply chain. These two applications will only be the start, as we invite all players in the supply chain to jump on board the platform and offer new applications based on our shared data and technologies.

The potential efficiency gains that a supply chain can reap from these applications are huge. The World Economic Forum estimates that if all countries improved border administration and transport and communication infrastructure to even half of global best practice, it could mean a 1$ trillion increase in global exports.

At this point you may be asking yourself ‘Why is Maersk investing in something that sounds like it will benefit many others as well?’

Because we win if we make it easier for people to trade; Because our customers are tired of the complexity within the trade industry and are eagerly waiting for better solutions; Because the applications and platform only succeed if a rich ecosystem of participants use it. And because we believe that with our commercial insights and IBM’s leading technologies, we stand the best chances of sowing the seeds of an independant company that can deliver what is needed.

This is a crucial step in the digital transformation not just for the container industry, but for global trade in its entirety.

Source: Hellenic Shipping News.