In last week’s article, I told you that some of the world’s leading firms that are making blockchain technologies a part of their everyday business operations, benefiting both the companies and consumers. And how, using current technology, it is difficult to trace every item through every step of a supply chain that is often very lengthy and complex, involving multiple parties and multiple jurisdictions.
Let me give you a brief glimpse at shipping a product. The very long paper trail begins when a cargo owner books space on a ship to move goods. Documents need to be filled in and approved before cargo can enter or leave a port. A single shipment may require hundreds of pages that need to be physically delivered to dozens of different agencies, banks, customs bureaus, etc.
And make no mistake – shipping is the very core of global trade…
The cost and size of the world’s trading ecosystems continue to grow exponentially. More than $4 trillion in goods, including 80% of consumer goods, are carried by the ocean shipping industry. Just about every item in your home today arrived there via a vast network that transports everything from food and medicine to apparel and electronics from around the world. Total trade represents 60% of the world’s GDP, and yet global supply chains are clogged with inefficiencies and heavily reliant on complex paper-based systems that I described above.
However, distributed ledger technology is changing the equation. For example, even Brexit Britain is looking at how the technology makes Brexit a smoother process.
You see, certificates of origin, typically provided by chambers of commerce, are needed to prove where goods were made for customs purposes. If the U.K. after Brexit is no longer in a customs union with the EU, it will be subject to complex “rules of origin” and companies will need to show which part of which product was made where in order to benefit from preferential trade deals.
The number of certificates of origin needed will likely rise sharply after Brexit. Such documents, and the many other requirements for exporting goods, could be digitized and shared through a blockchain. A standardized process could simplify and make it easier to check many parts of the supply chain including customs declarations, bills of lading [certifications of ship loads] and letters of credit. Shipments entered in a blockchain will remain there forever and can be tracked via a QR code.
Even if Britain does not go down this path, there are companies are the forefront of using blockchain to track shipments around the world.