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Blockchain partnership tackles ocean freight

Already an established player in air freight and logistics software, Accenture has announced a new initiative targeting container shipping.


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Accenture has announced an important step with blockchain for ocean freight with a pilot where “a consortium comprising AB InBev, Accenture, APL, Kuehne + Nagel and a European customs organization has successfully tested a blockchain solution that can eliminate the need for printed shipping documents and save the freight and logistics industry hundreds of millions of dollars annually”.

Managing the flow of announcements on blockchain in shipping has become a challenge in itself - WorldCargo News has received six announcements this week alone from a range of companies purporting to be ready to digitalise container shipping using blockchain. Accenture, however, is working in the freight and logistics sector with established players on a much wider level. This week it also announced that Air France KLM Martinair Cargo (AFKLMP Cargo) has rolled outs its “Accenture Freight and Logistics Software (AFLS) platform” that integrates commercial functions (Booking, Offer, Pricing, Rating, Capacity & Revenue Management, Flight Planning and Airway Bill Control) into a single unified platform. This is the type of digital transformation shipping lines are hoping to achieve.

Turning to ocean freight, the consortium pilot tested a solution where passing documents physically or digitally is replaced with sharing and distributing data on a blockchain.

One of the practical problems with blockchain for ocean shipping is how to replicate all the existing documents used today, particularly where there are requirements for official forms or certification from a government agency that are not digitalised. Accenture notes that a shipment of typical goods in areas such as the automotive, retail or consumer goods industries typically requires more than 20 different documents. “Across these documents, up to 70% of the data can be replicated. The document heavy approach limits data quality and real-time visibility to all parties involved in the trade and this can also delay the financial settlement on goods.

“The solution can speed up the entire flow of transport documents, reduce the requirement for data entry by up to 80 percent, simplify data amendments across the shipping process, streamline the checks required for cargo and reduce the burden and risk of penalties for customs compliance levied on customers,” Accenture noted.

Adriana Diener leads Accenture’s Freight & Logistics industry practice.
Adriana Diener leads Accenture’s Freight & Logistics industry practice.

“Our trials have proven the viability of a shipping process in which many documents can be replaced by secure and distributed data sharing with clear and defined ownership,” said Adriana Diener-Veinott, who leads Accenture’s Freight & Logistics industry practice. “This gives companies a significant opportunity to save time and money while improving their service to customers.”


Tests with the consortium covered 12 real shipments, with various destinations, each with different regulatory requirements. “The tests confirmed that blockchain can reduce operating costs and increase supply chain visibility,” Accenture said.


“Each organization involved in the trials typified a particular stakeholder in the shipping process: AB InBev represented a typical exporter; APL contributed its role as a shipping organization; Kuehne + Nagel provided direction on the requirements for a freight forwarder and a European customs organization replicated the regulatory requirements that cargo faces. Accenture provided the technological and consulting expertise on the blockchain technology and developed the technical architecture required to support a blockchain solution, leveraging the capabilities of its Singapore Internet of Things practice to rapidly build the prototype”.


Executives from APL and Kuehne + Nagel were optimistic blockchain can accelerate the digitalisation of shipping. “As part of Kuehne + Nagel’s digitalization strategy, we explore innovative technologies to create benefits for our customers. Blockchain is one of the most promising technologies in logistics. It has the potential to digitalize many of today’s paper-based processes and overcome the multitude of different interfaces. From our perspective, the open and collaborative approach applied in this project is key to gaining traction in the industry and the required market acceptance,” said Martin Kolbe, Chief Information Officer of Kuehne + Nagel International AG.


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