Singapore-based shipping company Pacific International Lines (PIL) partnered with IBM Singapore to trial blockchain technology. PIL, a leading containership operator in the country, intends to use the technology to develop a digital bill of lading that would greatly improve documentation processes during the supply chain. The partnership was endorsed by Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, Singapore Customs (National TradePlatform), Singapore Shipping Association, Infocomm Media Development Authority, and Bank of China Limited Singapore Branch (BOC).
Currently, a bill of lading represents a paper document used by banks when providing trade financing. The document adds to the inefficiency of the system, as it is generally mailed to the network members, which can result in fraud or the loss of the original paper. Also, the costs of handling a bill of lading introduce expenses across the supply chain management.
Nonetheless, a bill of lading is a key document upon which international trade has to rely, given that it includes legal and commercial information such as the evidence of the contract of carriage, special instructions, receipt of goods, and title of the goods among others.
Thus, it makes sense to focus on improving the handling this process. In this regard, PIL and IBM plan to use an electronic bill of lading – e-BL – to replicate the document online and put it on a distributed ledger develop by IBM.
PIL’s executive director Lisa Teo commented:
“This is a big step forward for PIL. As an international shipping company, we believe we have a role to play in enhancing efficiencies within the intermodal transport logistics ecosystem. Working with a complex logistic network comprising ports and terminals, agencies, government entities, banks and shippers; systematic supply chain management is increasingly important to lower costs through the chain by cutting unnecessary expense, movements and handling.”
The electronic bill of lading project is part of PIL’s broader plan to build an intermodal transport logistics ecosystem that would also rely on blockchain.
In August, IBM and Maersk, the world’s largest operator of container ship and supply vessel, launched a blockchain-based shipping platform known as TradeLens. The new system replaces traditional contract processes with smart contracts.