cathay pacific unilode

Cathay Pacific is the latest transport company to take advantage of the benefits of blockchain technology – in this case, to help track ULDs.

With most cargo supplied to the airline pre-packed, Cathay releases empty ULDs to agents.

The process requires a lot of ULD movements and unique registration numbers are entered manually – if a mistake is made, the ULD is effectively lost.

Calvin Hui, eCargo and digital enablement manager, said: “We have built a database with a smart contract distribution ledger [blockchain] that enables us to clearly define the custody of each unit, which time stamps the ownership.”

It will help boost capacity as well.

“During the boom in business last year, we noticed an increased number of ‘idling’ ULDs, which we couldn’t use immediately and would rather have had them available for shipments.”

And the technology could increase revenue – under IATA guidelines, demurrage fees should be paid after five days to ULD owners.

During trials with ULD provider Unilode, each ULD had a QR code fitted, while a simple app captured the ULD’s unique number and the agent it was released to.

The ledger shows a timestamp and a record, as well as a countdown to the point that demurrage could theoretically be collected.

The app was released to agents, so they could scan the built-up ULD when it left their warehouse, to effectively end ‘the countdown’.

The next process involves adding bluetooth technology, allowing the ULDs to be tracked and then updating the ledger. Ultimately, it would enable data-rich transparent end-to-end shipment tracking.

Cathay’s general manager cargo service delivery, Frosti Lau, said: “As part of our digital strategy we want to extend blockchain to underpin next-generation track and trace using the ‘internet of things’.

“Tracking ULDs is one thing, but the ability to offer multi-dimensional shipment status at piece level is our long-term ambition.”

The next challenge is to cover the flight part of the movement.

Mr Hui explained: “Ideally, we want people to react immediately, but an off-the-shelf product isn’t going to solve the problem of air to ground communication. All we know is that when the plane has landed and we find that there have been temperature excursions, it’s too late.

“But if we received information from the aircraft, we could implement service recovery action immediately, or notify the shipper to prepare a new consignment if it’s too much of an excursion, or make sure there is dry ice on hand when the aircraft lands to save the situation.”

Comment on this article

You must be logged in to post a comment.
  • Henry Collins

    July 31, 2018 at 3:33 pm

    Very interesting application of blockchain .