Global trade is systemically important to the world’s economy. In 2021, it represented $28.5 trillion. Yet, it hasn’t evolved along with the digital transformation of other industries.
Perhaps that’s because evolution seems like an insurmountable task. Processes are complex. Documents and information flow continuously — but asynchronously — between parties across the globe. Many processes still rely on paper and legacy systems.
This lack of digital, on-demand data makes it difficult for the shipping sector to respond to global events, like the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 or the supply chain disruptions in 2021. In short, existing global trade processes aren’t efficient nor resilient enough.
GSBN, a not-for-profit backed (and governed) by a collection of major shipping lines and global terminal operators, set out to create the trusted data sharing infrastructure needed for efficient, digital and resilient global trade. To do so, GSBN built a new global trade operating platform using Hyperledger Fabric as the foundation.
The initial launch of GSBN centered around a Cargo Release offering aimed at improving shipping container turn-around time, reducing port congestion and pollution. Since its launch in March of 2021, more than 10,000 customers have used Cargo Release to get real-time updates on over 1 million shipments.
In September 2021, GSBN formed the Trade Finance Advisory Group with Bank of China (Hong Kong) Limited (BOCHK), DBS Bank and The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited (HSBC) to develop digital solutions to help improve the financing process for banks. To break barriers in data sharing that were hindering financing approvals for trade companies, especially SMEs, GSBN created an application for consent collection. It allows banks to source data directly from shipping lines so they can verify information based on a single source of truth.
The third application for GSBN is electronic bills of lading (eBL). In June 2022, IQAX eBL application, built on top of GSBN, obtained approval by the International Group of P&I Clubs. The eBL application provides a digital channel for all parties to access real-time data on the shipping process. It also guarantees the security, accuracy, and authenticity of data. And it ensures the data on the blockchain network is traceable to a single source. This application has already been adopted by three shipping lines and one bank.
The Hyperledger Foundation team worked with GSBN on a case study that details the business and technical drivers and decisions that went into the creation of GSBN as well as key results to date. It also lays out how GSBN, as CTO Edmund To puts it, “will expand the global trade ecosystem by creating bridges to new market participants like banks, FinTech’s, and other consortia and launching new solutions.”