Challenging Times For IBM/Maersk Blockchain Shipping Initiative?

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Might there be challenging times afoot for TradeLens, the distributed ledger technology platform effort geared toward supply chains and backed by IBM and Maersk?

CoinDesk reports that the duo is “wrestling” with a problem that can bedevil competitors working together – a notion that the site said is “especially tricky when one of those rivals, in this case Maersk, owns the “team.”

CoinDesk noted that the blockchain project had its gestation 10 months ago, when Maersk spun off that initiative into a JV with IBM. There is now only one other carrier on the platform, which is Pacific International Lines, the 17th largest in the world. As the site reports, there is a need for more carriers on the platform, an admission made by Marvin Erdly, head of TradeLens at IBM Blockchain.“I won’t mince words here – we do need to get the other carriers on the platform. Without that network, we don’t have a product. That is the reality of the situation,” he said.

Some of Maersk’s rivals, such as CMA CGM and Hapag-Lloyd, have said the platform is unusable, while others have balked due to the idea that the platform may not promote carriers equally.

“Obviously, the fact that Maersk is driving this is both a really good thing and a worrying thing, because they are such a big player in the industry,” noted Erdly. “As you can imagine, that’s going to be a factor.”

Those same carriers, other sources said to CoinDesk, were less than enthused about the fact that intellectual property rights would be owned jointly by IBM and Maersk.

Oher stakeholders have signed on to TradeLens, including customs authorities and freight forwarding and logistics companies.

“We have had positive engagement with companies across all sectors of our industry thus far, and we’re pleased to note that this constructive dialogue has resulted in more than 100 ecosystem participants actively involved or piloting the solution,” CoinDesk cited Michael J. White, Maersk’s TradeLens head, as stating.

There are also other players and alternatives in the field. Accenture has a blockchain offering in place with AB inBev, and a European customs firm has brought carrier APL onto its platform.

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