The use of blockchain solutions in the supply chain is by no means limited to the containerized cargo sector, with Basel, Switzerland-based Fracht now leading the way in the field of project forwarding by teaming with CargoX in providing swift and secure paperless bills of lading for outside-the-box shipments.
While partnerships such as the vanguard blockchain initiative of global container line Maersk and multinational technology giant IBM may be drawing far more attention, the Fracht-CargoX alliance bodes to be equally beneficial in saving time and money plus enhancing document security for shippers of oversized and overweight cargos.
Following joint announcement of the Fracht-CargoX agreement in late July, Fracht is now rolling out the blockchain-based bill of lading solution, initially through 32 of its more than 100 global offices, according to Sandro Leuenberger, the project forwarder’s Basel-based manager of overseas imports.
Leuenberger told AJOT this month that training of Fracht staff and clients is proceeding as well, after successful completion of a six-week test phase.
Fracht’s chief executive officer, Ruedi Reisdorf, is among those who are bullish on the application of blockchain technology in the project realm.
“As service providers, we must be able to step into our customer’s shoes and impartially choose the best available options,” Reisdorf said. “We have made various tests on the use of blockchain in shipping and forwarding, and the bill of lading is exceptionally suited, being a document of value that exchanges hands and needs to be secure.”
Reisdorf points to four key benefits of Fracht’s “smart” bill of lading:
Stefan Kukman, chief executive officer and founder of CargoX, headquartered in Koper, Slovenia, with an additional office in Hong Kong, said he is pleased to be partnering with Fracht in bringing his company’s solution – trademarked as Smart B/L – to project logistics.
- Security, with encryption and protected writing and private-key access on the blockchain network, meaning no easily hacked central document storage;
- Speed, with instant digital issuance and transfer without waiting for courier deliveries, cutting as many as 10 days from the process related to transfer of cargo ownership from issuer to shipper to consignee to release agent;
- Savings, avoiding the typical $100 expense of sending an old-school paper bill of lading three times via couriers; and
- Paperless convenience, with the blockchain-based bill of lading being equivalent in its application to a traditional paper version but without significant risk of being damaged, lost or stolen.
“Fracht is one of the companies we look up to, as they prove that change is the only constant in business,” Kukman said. “They are always looking at how to adapt to business, where to find new opportunities, and how to always keep in mind the global common good.
“It is very similar,” he said, “to the idea how we designed our solution – by looking at the whole picture and anticipating what the future will bring: Not just profits, but optimal workflows, new technologies and a multitude of benefits, from speedier and safer document ownership transfer to optimized financial flow.”
Fracht’s Reisdorf said he believes shipping documents ideally lend themselves to digital technology.
“Blockchain is the thing,” Reisdorf said, “but, in our opinion, also only for some uses and not for everything in the world. It is very good for trade, and one of the very best uses, if not the best, is the use for the bill of lading.”