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Scientists at the University of Copenhagen have backed using blockchain systems in container shipping after tests led to improved efficiency and security.

The pilot scheme of Marine Transport International’s “Container Streams” system connected supplier, shipper, load point, customs and terminal on a shared blockchain ledger.

The technology is essentially an encrypted messaging system that allows supply chain partners to operate a shared ledger that records all the events in the processing and physical progress of a shipment, such as customs entries or bills of lading.

Karim Jabbar, of the university’s department of computer sciences, said the pilot demonstrated the great potential for blockchain to improve supply chain processes.

He added: “The logistics industry can expect better visibility, connectivity and cost savings as a result of distributed ledger adoption. Furthermore, the Container Streams system is unique in that it does not require the complete replacement of existing systems.”

Through use of an adapter programme, Mr Jabbar said MTI’s system provided “complete interoperability” with legacy infrastructure.

A white paper, co-authored by Mr Jabbar and chief executive of Blockchain Labs for Open Collaboration Deanna MacDonald, says the system lowers barriers of entry to blockchain, which makes it easier for “smaller players” in the supply chain to become connected – thus completing the chain.

Ms MacDonald said the future potential of the “ecosystem platform” would rest upon collaboration from the different actors in supply chains to clearly identify problems and co-create applications that solve the collective challenges.

Chief executive of MTI Jody Cleworth said the results of the pilot demonstrated the “strength and broad spectrum” of blockchain technology to link supply chains.

“In recent months, shipping has fallen victim to industrial-scale cyber attacks, which have left large shipping lines completely paralysed and unable to serve clients,” said Mr Cleworth. “A blockchain-enabled supply chain is highly resilient to cyberattacks – a copy of the essential shipping data is stored on each node on a decentralised network, meaning that even if one node is compromised, the data is safe, nevertheless.”

This, he added, made the business case for connecting supply chains using blockchain “very strong”.

“As the interface is easily adaptable to existing systems there is a very low barrier to entry, and any type of supply chain business can take advantage of such a system,” he said.

“The cost savings we envisage are as high as 90%, as a result of substantially streamlined processes.”

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