Alibaba and Ant Financial to Build Blockchain For Container Line Giant Cosco

The global shipping industry is set to see a massive, top-to-bottom digital transformation thanks in large to the latest partnerships established in the ecosystem. According to reports from the Wall Street Journal, China’s state-run container line Cosco Shipping Holdings has signed a partnership with Alibaba and Anti Financial – Alibaba’s financial technology affiliate.

The three companies will work together on using blockchain technology to track goods across seaborne supply chains. Under the deal, announced earlier this week on Monday, Cosco, Alibaba, and Ant Financial will cooperate on building the blockchain. With Ant Financial being one of the biggest blockchain-oriented platforms in China, servicing almost a billion users per day, and Alibaba’s market dominance, Cosco has armed itself with powerful partners.

Eric Jing, the executive chairman of Ant Financial, said that the motivation behind the partnership was to address the problems and the complexity of global shipping, as the numerous steps involved in the process and its participants are sure to benefit from blockchain technology. According to Ledger Insights, the company noted that when it comes to global shipping, the goal of blockchain technology is to link all organizations and entities involved in the shipping process—from logistics providers and shipping companies to ports and financiers. 

Alibaba’s financial arm especially highlighted the part about supply chain finance, saying that it was the top use case for enterprise blockchain in China.

“Through Ant Group’s blockchain technology, we look forward to supporting the digital transformation of the global shipping industry, and working with COSCO SHIPPING to make it easier and more efficient to trade globally,” Jing said in a statement.

This isn’t the first time that Alibaba and its subsidiaries dabbled in blockchain technology in the shipping sector. Earlier in May, the two companies signed a similar agreement with the shipping conglomerate China Merchants Port group, which also focuses on creating a digital platform that would host post operations. 

Alibaba also recently joined the International Port Community Systems Association (IPCSA) and supported its blockchain bill of landing initiative.

When it comes to Cosco, this isn’t its first rodeo either. The container line giant has been exploring blockchain technology for a while, with its biggest project being experimenting blockchain with the Qingdao Port. In the port, which is part of the Shandong Port group, Cosco reportedly processed almost 500 containers in late June, with an official report from the company stating that 24 hours of shipping time was saved on each container.

Other major shipping companies have also been exploring blockchain, some longer than others. A.P. Moller-Maersk, a Denmark-based holding company that owns container shipping giant Maersk Line, introduced a blockchain platform for container ships back in 2016. The platform was a joint effort between Maersk and International Business Machines Corp and included other big operators such as the Swiss Mediterranean Shipping Co., French CMA CGM SA, and German Hapag-Lloyd AG. 

However, it is still unclear how much freight was handled through the platform. 

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