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Ship's bow

Is shipping ready for radical transparency?

Blockchain has the potential to revolutionise many different sectors so we are supporting Maritime Blockchain Labs (MBL) to explore how these technologies can transform the assurance and safety of shipping’s critical infrastructure.

The Foundation sees significant opportunity for blockchain technologies to help in the safety business. Described as fundamental for forward progress in society, blockchain’s capability to provide an auditable, cryptographically secure and immutable log of activities across a computer network could radically rethink the way business operates, especially for supply chains. With different parties able to securely record and share trusted data between themselves ultra-efficiently, a new level of traceability and transparency emerges, based on a system that is ‘self-policing’. Several applications for engineered systems are already emerging as highlighted in the Foundation’s published Insight Review on distributed ledger technologies (DLTs), with The Alan Turing Institute. Blockchains are a form of DLT and a good example includes the tracking of food products through a supply chain to provide clear evidence of their provenance.

Shipping, a traditional industry, has much to gain from adopting blockchain if its effectiveness can be proven. Processes between parties are in many cases archaic, with complex and opaque supply chains. Exploiting the key characteristics of blockchain technologies can help the shipping industry address major risk and safety challenges, including staying compliant with regulations.

A consortium approach is essential due to the need for cross regulatory boundaries and to work within different organisational bodies and systems.

Deanna MacDonald

CEO and co-founder, BLOC

The Foundation is supporting MBL to determine where blockchain technologies can enable breakthrough solutions: a world-first maritime collaboration. As a founding member and lead funder, our support follows on from recommendations in our DLT report. MBL (a subsidiary of technology and governance experts, Blockchain Labs for Open Collaboration, or BLOC) will take an industry-led approach to identifying, designing and testing solutions. It will then develop the technology to ensure these solutions are relevant and used. Over the next 18 months, Foundation money will provide resources for MBL to pursue three demonstrator projects.

MBL’s work will also help to establish an inclusive maritime blockchain community or ecosystem. This will foster innovation and collaboration between blockchain practitioners and industry, share knowledge and best practices, collectively define problems and shape solutions that are open and interoperable.

Real progress on a pressing issue: the Fuel Bunkering Demonstrator

Following wide industry research, the Foundation and MBL identified the bunker business as an ideal first challenge with its multiple, complex transactions from supplier to bunker delivery. The shipping industry knows only too well the cost of poor quality fuel to safety, as well as operational and environmental performance. Adding to this picture is the need to meet ever-tougher regulations around decarbonisation. The industry quickly needs a trustworthy framework for accurately monitoring emissions, notably the sulphur and carbon that shipping produces.

The initiative’s first project – the Fuel Bunkering demonstrator – will explore how blockchain technologies can benefit both maritime fuel buyers and regulatory bodies by providing an efficient, tamper-resistant and auditable chain of custody. Leading this project is an industry consortium. Each member represents a different party in the marine fuels value chain or wider shipping industry, contributing their expertise and insight as the consortium builds and validates the use of blockchain in this pressing area.


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