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article imageIBM and Maersk form blockchain joint venture for global trade

By James Walker     Jan 16, 2018 in Technology
IBM and Maersk have announced a new joint venture to develop a digitized global trade platform built around blockchain tech. The two firms said they will improve efficiency and transparency in cross-border trade by digitally transforming the industry.
Milestone for trading
The new company was announced in a press release today. It has been described as a "milestone" in the digitization of worldwide commerce by Maersk CEO Vincent Clerc. IBM and Maersk will jointly use the business to commercialise their existing blockchain and cloud technologies, scaling them to more members of the logistics industry.
"This new company marks a milestone in our strategic efforts to drive the digitization of global trade. The potential from offering a neutral, open digital platform for safe and easy ways of exchanging information is huge, and all players across the supply chain stand to benefit," said Clerc. "By joining our knowledge of trade with IBM’s capabilities in blockchain and enterprise technology, we are confident this new company can make a real difference in shaping the future of global trade."
Besides blockchain capabilities, IBM will also provide several other emerging technologies. Artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and data analytics capabilities will be incorporated into the next-generation platform. The result will create a cohesive global shipping system available to merchants, ports, customs authorities and manufacturers.
15% trade increase
IBM and Maersk have been collaborating on blockchain technologies since June 2016. Initial trials of the joint platform have proved successful, with users including Tetra Pak, Port Houston and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
IBM said blockchain technology could significantly simplify cross-border trade by eliminating supply chain obstacles. It cited a World Economic Forum report that suggested global trade could increase by 15 percent if the barriers are removed.
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"The major advances IBM has made in blockchain have shown that the technology can foster new business models and play an important role in how the world works by building smarter businesses," said Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president of IBM's Solutions and Blockchain division.
"Our joint venture with Maersk means we can now speed adoption of this exciting technology with the millions of organizations who play vital roles in one of the most complex and important networks in the world, the global supply chain. We believe blockchain will now emerge in this market as the leading way companies seize new untapped economic opportunities."
Smart contracts
The new business will be led by Michael J. White as CEO. White was formerly president of Maersk Line in North America. Initially, two solutions will be available, including an end-to-end shipping information pipeline and a platform for Paperless Trade. In the latter instance, blockchain-based smart contracts will replace physical signatures, saving time and lowering cost.
The operation will be subject to regulatory clearance before it's allowed to start trading. IBM and Maersk anticipate the venture will begin to offer its first solutions within six months. The companies will also create an advisory board of industry experts to assist in the expansion of the platform.
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