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Brussels Airport and its community have become one of the first air cargo organisations to implement blockchain technology.
Forming the basis of its Landsite Management Tool, blockchain will be used to track the handover of cargo from handlers to forwarders, under the freight management app.
“The handover of cargo is an important phase, as it also confers the legal transfer, and liability for the cargo,” said Steven Polmans, head of Brussels Airport Cargo.
“Today it is a very time-consuming and manual process, involving paperwork and different steps. So this is a good example of where blockchain can offer a solution.”
New technologies can be difficult to implement, held back by money or mindset. But Mr Polmans said developing the proof of concept and drafting the scope took just two months. Programming has now begun, with the first pilot set to be introduced in August and the app to be rolled out in October.
He added that there was no fear of being first mover.
“The stakeholders embraced this with eagerness,” he said. “As always, any change is difficult, but thanks to our cooperation with Air Cargo Belgium and the effects they have seen with earlier BRUcloud applications, it was easier than we expected.
“Some companies are really frontrunners in exploring new applications, so we are convinced that if we continue our approach of involving them from the beginning, looking at operational needs and efficiency, keeping costs low and offering agile solutions, it will be easier every time.”
The investment cost, he added, was “very acceptable” – but he noted that it was an add-on to BRU’s existing slot booking app.
More applications can be added on to the existing infrastructure using the same technology. Different users can install their own nodes, which can register all transactions and are accessible by all parties with access rights, creating complete transparency.
Brussels launched its BRUcloud open data-sharing platform for its community in 2016, enabling stakeholders to work on an integrated network, with centrally stored data. Once connected, companies can select which which applications to use.
“BRUcloud was already creating opportunities and challenging people and companies to look at new options and ways of cooperating,” explained Mr Polmans.
“This application is a next step and introduces new technology that the industry is talking about, but not yet really using. It offers new opportunities and interacts between different parties in the chain, so we do hope this small step is only the first to something much bigger.
“Using this technology is not really increasing transparency, because cloud-based services could do the same. But it enables us to digitalise a process that involves important liabilities, with the necessary trust and transparency.”
DB Schenker has also stepped into the blockchain arena. With partner VeChain, it has developed a third-party supplier evaluation system to measure the performance of its partners.