A review of the use of blockchain in supply chain and port management publications – and what it means for the adoption of blockchain in other sectors
Sergey Tsiulin – Aalborg University, Denmark
Aalborg University did a systematic review of scientific and grey literature published in journals and conference proceedings in the past decade to build a conceptual framework of the aims of blockchain-based applications in the shipping industry and supply chain. They also explored whether blockchain can be adopted into existing maritime shipping and port document workflow management. This framework enabled a review how blockchain can affect communication between stakeholders, information flow, data confidentiality concerns, and other relevant processes in shipping and port management.
Aalborg’s study provides a framework for understanding the use of blockchain applications within maritime port environments, an under-studied part of blockchain implementation in the wider supply chain field. This work is the first to identify conceptual intersections and correlations between existing blockchain implementation projects in this area. This study also looked at whether blockchain can be adopted into existing maritime shipping and port document workflow management.
We have seen the implementation of an extensive range of blockchain applications across many disciplines and fields. The academic literature however lacks an analysis of such applications – particularly if we’re looking at the state-of-the-art in supply chain and maritime logistics. Aalborg’s paper addresses this by examining the use of blockchain technology in the supply chain and maritime industries. The overview was carried out during 2019 and has been subsequently updated as further relevant projects are identified.
The results grouped the 56 projects that were reviewed into three main areas: document workflow management, financial processes, and device connectivity. However, despite having clear interlinkages between the three themes, none of the projects Aalborg reviewed considered all three areas at once. They also noticed in their project review that blockchain projects unintentionally had similar goals to those set out in other port-management scientific projects – which were underway well before the development of blockchain technology.
The majority of blockchain projects for the supply chain and maritime industry emphasize tracking the provenance of goods, seeking to establish end-to-end monitoring and reporting of cargo. Tracking starts from the place of origin (e.g. the farmer or manufacturer) through international shipping and on to the final destination. Being able to document this logistical process gains credibility from the final customer and provides a mechanism to enable better transparency throughout transportation, being able to monitor the status of the cargo (damage, delays, document-related disputes, etc).
It was clear from the 56 projects that we reviewed that there have been considerable shifts towards the digitalization of document flow in maritime shipping, and the integration of both blockchain and Internet of Things technologies into current data management systems.
Our findings also found current blockchain initiatives have similar objectives to many pre- blockchain projects – such as those exploring the idea of the ‘Port Community System’. The difference with blockchain though is that there was no technical solution available within the Port Community System that could implement its objectives of transactions’ transparency, auditability, and real-time functional equity.
Tsiulin, S., Reinau, K. H., Hilmola, O-P., Goryaev, N.K., Mostafa, A. K. A. (2020) Blockchain in Maritime Port Management: Defining Key Conceptual Framework. Review of International Business and Strategy. Special issue: “Blockchain and the Multinational Enterprise”, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 201-224
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