Project

A. General Information

1. Title

TradeLens

2. Status of the project
Terminated
3. Implementation period of the project/service:
From
Jan-2018
To
Dec-2023
5. Geographical coverage
Global
Participating countries: Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Benin, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Denmark, Djibouti, Ecuador, Egypt, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Türkiye, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United Republic of Tanzania, United States of America, Uruguay, Viet Nam
Hub Point: United States of America
6. Participating agencies/entities of the project/service:
a. Development stage
Lead agencies/entities
International Business Machines (IBM)
Maersk
Other participating agencies/entities
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b. Operational stage
Lead agencies/entities (op)
International Business Machines (IBM)
Maersk
Other participating agencies/entities (op)
--
7. Main stakeholders/beneficiaries of the project
Traders (big enterprises)
Traders (SMEs)
Transport
Customs brokers
Customs
Other Government Agencies (OGAs)
8. Business process category of the project
Commercial Transactions
Forwarding and cargo handling
Transport
Regulatory/official control
Payment

B. Lessons Learned

9. Summary description of the project/service
a. Objective(s)

TradeLens is a global, blockchain powered platform that follows the flow of cargo from source to destination, and connects the various parties involved in a shipment. It is also an open, neutral platform that enables all organizations involved in an international shipment to exchange shipment events and documents simply and securely in real time, increasing the visibility that shippers have about the status, location, and contents of their consignment.

b. Business need for the project (background)

In many countries, it is still difficult for a trader to find a consolidated cross-agency view of the release status of a shipment. By publishing key events and information to TradeLens, Customs and other government agencies can improve the visibility that traders have about the status of their shipments. This helps the private sector to better plan its activities, saving both time and money.

c. Business process covered*

Platforms like TradeLens allow Customs and other government agencies to piggyback their supervision processes on top of existing commercial information exchanges. As soon as a container is stuffed in the exporting country, the importing country’s Customs agency could pull the purchase order and packing list from TradeLens and use them to perform a risk assessment on the shipment. Access to earlier, more complete, immutable data improves the effectiveness of targeting processes, facilitating legitimate trade, increasing compliance and improving Customs’ efficiency.

d. Overall architecture and functionalities*

TradeLens uses IBM blockchain technology as the foundation for digital supply chains, empowering multiple trading partners to collaborate by establishing a single shared view of a transaction without compromising details, privacy, or confidentiality. Shippers, shipping lines, freight forwarders, port and terminal operators, and inland transportation and customs authorities can interact more efficiently with real-time access to shipping data and shipping documents, including internet of things and sensor data ranging from temperature control to container weight.

e. Relevant document/figure
10. Documents and data exchanged via the project

TradeLens is an open, neutral platform that enables all organizations involved in an international shipment to exchange shipment events and documents.

11. Data models/databases, proprietary solutions, hybrid approaches
--
12. Main challenges faced during the project

TradeLens failed to overcome the reliance on paper-based documents in international shipping, particularly paper bills of lading (the legal document that details goods and their destination). Even TradeLens’ e-bills of lading offering couldn’t eliminate paper-based processes. In addition, IBM and Maersk planned for TradeLens to serve the wider global shipping industry—not just Maersk—but shipping firms reportedly couldn’t overcome Maersk’s involvement in the project. Despite being registered as an independent entity and marketed in its own right, the perception remained that TradeLens was a Maersk offering, and the shipping industry didn’t have the appetite for sharing confidential data with a competitor.

13. Lessons learned from the project

The non-success of TradeLens can be attributed to some of the inherent disadvantages of private blockchains, which can limit the scope of collaboration and adoption among industry stakeholders. Centralized control, limited access, and concerns over data privacy and neutrality have hindered the growth and success of the platform. Embracing permissioned public blockchains can pave the way forward for more sustainable and efficient supply chain solutions. These permissioned public blockchains strike a balance between the security and control of private blockchains while offering the transparency and decentralization of public blockchains.

14. Main benefit(s) of the project
Enhanced regulatory compliance*
Transaction Cost savings*
Transaction Time savings
Simplified process
Increased trade flow
14A. Elaborations/detailed description on benefits gained

By publishing key events and information to TradeLens, Customs and other government agencies can improve the visibility that traders have about the status of their shipments. This helps the private sector to better plan its activities, saving both time and money.

15. Technical/financial/capacity building/other assistance
--
16. Future plan for expansion of the project
--
17. Other information or relevant references on the project
--
18. Relevant document regarding the project
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C. Relevant Standards

20. Electronic message standard
20A. Electronic message standard supporting the project
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20B. Type of standard for electronic message applied for the project
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21. Technical communication standard
21A. Technical communication standard supporting the project
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21B. Type of technical communication standard applied for the project
--
22. Security-related standards*
22A. Security-related standard supporting the project
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22B. Type of security-related standard applied for the project
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23. Other Technical Information
23A. Interface developed for data exchange with an internal system
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23B. Other technical implementation information
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