Upgrading the digital port infrastructure

Map global logistics partnership connection of Container Cargo freight ship for Logistics Import Export background. Credit: NASA/Getty Images

The Dubai Maritime Agenda conference, which took place on Sunday, 22 September in Dubai as part of the United Arab Emirates Maritime Week, discussed how blockchain can be implemented in ports in future.

Martijn Thijsen, working on the digital strategy transformation for the Port of Rotterdam, set the scene why this is necessary. “Shipping is based on the Middle Ages, the collateral for global trade is still the physical bill of lading.” He called on the industry, “we need to build on this and open up”.

While some ports, such as the port of Haifa, Israel, recently started to look at using blockchain technology to keep track of the bill of lading, more processes could be optimised. Something the ports of Singapore, Rotterdam and Antwerp are already looking at.

For this, it is important to not only look at the digital infrastructure of a port, but at the entire supply chain. “There is no value in only turning a physical document into a digital one, if you don’t look at the supply chain within the sector, in this case, shipping,” Rowan Feen, CEO of Quaychain told DPC.

“With blockchain you can reduce the volume of what needs to be shipped and stored in port,” he pointed out benefits of using digital technology to keep track of paperwork and goods at all times. “It has the potential to restructure the physical infrastructure,” he said.

In a time where climate change calls for reduction of the anthropological footprint, while a rising demand of goods and products calls for quicker deliveries, this can speed up the transport of goods.

“You can scale down because everything is interconnected, goods could get sold while they’re on a ship,” Feen explains, adding that if the whole supply chain is connected, “this is where it gets futuristic very quickly”.