Understanding the factors that affect blockchain adoption
Sergey Tsiulin – Aalborg University, Denmark
This research by Aalborg University examines to what extent various blockchain-use scenarios for the shipping industry are actually relevant to maritime port operators, and whether these blockchain use scenarios are aligned with ports’ long-term development strategies – particularly in Denmark. Aalborg used qualitative interviews with representatives of the biggest maritime ports of Denmark, covering a range of locations, volumes, operations, and cargo types to answer these questions.
Aalborg’s results identified uncertainties in the long-term investment strategies of the ports we analysed. While they were focused on land expansion and operation development, port authorities lack ‘inner-port’ coordination with related enterprises (logistics, customs, data handling etc.), which consequently affects their overall efficiency. While their development strategies appear to be identical, there is significant variance in their strategies for short-term port optimisation which has implications for different blockchain use/adoption scenarios.
Unlike typical blockchain ‘compatibility’ studies, our research highlights the impact of core business uncertainties within port area development and communication, reflecting tensions between port owners and terminal operators, the use of outdated IT, and the impact of non-digital workflows.
After defining the main scenarios for blockchain applications for maritime sector, we interviewed stakeholders to examine the likelihood of these scenarios being implemented, and how digitalization aligns with the port development agenda, particularly within maritime ports in Denmark.
The study used semi-structured interviews with representatives of the six largest maritime ports in Denmark: Aarhus, Copenhagen-Malmö, Esbjerg, Aalborg, Fredericia and Hirtshals. The discussion was structured around the current state of the maritime industry in Denmark, long-term development strategies, practical challenges and blockchain scenarios for the maritime industry.
Development, but perhaps not digital development
Long-term development strategies in these ports prioritized land expansion – containership and bulk cargo infrastructure upgrades, and connectivity for land distribution via rail or road transport. There is a low level of digitalization at port authorities, while it varies considerably for terminal operators. For port authorities, the opportunity of working with data is seen from strategic perspective – to get closer contact with terminal operator as an advisor and to better predict and fulfil demand. In this case, existing software applications show potential, including blockchain projects. Generally good working relationships between Authorities and operators mean there is less of a demand for platforms that build trust. It is not clear how the market preference for turnkey solutions for operators would work with decentralised systems.
There was however some interest in blockchain-enabled solutions around security and access. A challenge for blockchain projects is incorporating the many different port actors into a single network. Interviewees felt it was unclear whether customs, despite an interest in joining a networked system, would (or would not) contribute to database transaction processing or whether they would only provide read-only data. This emphasises the need for active Government participation to enable the development of new solutions and platforms.
Tsiulin, S., Reinau, K.H. (2021) The Role of Port Authority in New Blockchain Scenarios for Maritime Port Management: The Case of Denmark. Transportation Research Procedia. Proceedings of 23rd EURO Working Group on Transportation Meeting, EWGT 2020, Paphos, Cyprus, Volume 52, pp 388-395
https://vbn.aau.dk/files/464912381/The_Role_of_ Port_Authority_in_New_Blockchain_Scenarios_ for_Maritime_Port_Management.pdf