One of the biggest shipping company announced today they have deployed in production a blockchain powered solution.
Following a number of accidents blamed on incorrectly weighed cargo, the International Maritime Organization introduced in 2016 a verified gross mass (VGM) requirement under the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS).
Kuehne + Nagel now says they are utilizing blockchain technology “in a large scale operational environment with 800,000 transactions per month” for its VGM portal.
The aim is to make the weight verification requirements easier to share and communicate with other parties such as the shipper, the ocean carrier or the marine terminal.
As blockchains are generally immutable, the shared data can not be changed by other parties, so making it a solution for in-production use.
“The list of promises related to the use of blockchain in the logistics industry is long, but actual real-world applications are hard to find,” Martin Kolbe, Chief Information Officer Kuehne + Nagel International says before adding:
“The Kuehne + Nagel VGM Portal solution jointly developed by our seafreight experts and our IT team allows us to get a true hands-on experience with blockchain technology in an on-premise production environment and with a high number of transactions.”
Just what blockchain is being used exactly and what are the technical implementation details, is unclear, with all of this seemingly very much at the backend as users simply complete an ordinary looking form on the front end.
Considering the immutability need, this may be a public blockchain with one seemingly unrelated company using bitcoin’s blockchain for the same purpose.
They appear to be hashing the documents so that they can’t be changed without it being clear there has been tampering, with their first transaction for the purpose made in 2016 being 1.4KB in size.
Something which might make such digital stamping of documents a bit expensive in bitcoin as its on-chain capacity is currently very limited, but ethereum’s blockchain is working on implementing significant levels of on-chain capacity which may make it useful for these purposes.
“Operating the VGM Portal on blockchain in an operational high volume environment delivers valuable learnings and expertise for the development of joint blockchain applications,” Kolbe says.
They however also say “all information submitted via the portal is stored on-chain,” which for current public blockchains might be too expensive, so this may be a private blockchain.
For public blockchains, storage can be in a decentralized way through IPFS, with it then linked to the public blockchain which only contains the “navigation” or verification aspect such as the hash or some other pertinent information.
It does however appear that the pilots and tests of the past two years are now starting to bear some fruit at least in some areas with blockchain tech now so seemingly starting to be utilized in production.