How Hamburg's logistics sector uses blockchain

Logistics and Supply Chain Management - where is blockchain technology used in Hamburg? Part 2: Pilot projects in logistics
04 December 2019

Blockchain technology is considered transparent, forgery-proof, decentralized and holds great potential for the logistics industry. Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) may yet replace the largely manual or paper-based systems in the supply chain sector and digitalize the industry, a recent Bitkom study has found. Blockchain technology is being used in applications and test projects across Hamburg’s logistics sectors. Hamburg News presents three use cases. Our introductory article focused on blockchain-based energy projects across Hamburg.

Hapag Lloyd to accelerate digitisation with Tradelens

The Hamburg-based transport and logistics company Hapag Lloyd joined Tradelens, a*blockchain-based, digital platform* in July. Developed by IBM and the A.P. Moller-Maersk logistics group, it now has over 100 international users i.e. companies that are responsible for more than half of the global sea freight container traffic. Tradelens allows users across the entire ecosystem of the supply chain to link up with each other, exchange information and collaborate digitally.

DLT’s features are ideal for large networks involving different partners. Blockchain technology creates a transparent, unalterable record of all transactions while the freight is being moved around the world. Authorized parties including carriers, customs and port authorities, can access data in real time. “We can accelerate digital transformation with five of the world’s six largest carriers and many other players to create more trust, transparency and collaboration along supply chains and promote global trade,” said Martin Gnass, Managing Director of Information Technology at Hapag-Lloyd. The platform processes more than 10 million shipping transactions and thousands of documents every week, according to IBM.

Forgery-proof and standardised transport documents – Hansebloc

Meanwhile, the Digital Hub Logistics in the Speicherstadt is working on the Hansebloc (Hanseatic Blockchain Innovations for Logistics and Supply Chain Management) project, which is dedicated to the forgery-proof transmission of information between all those involved on land, at sea and in air transport. Transport documents, consignment notes and customs documents are exchanged on paper, per e-mail, cloud services and freight exchanges, but there are hardly any standards, according to Dr. Jan C. Rode, Logistik Initiative Hamburg. This is where the joint project comes in using blockchain technology to enable secure, electronic exchange of freight documents using a sensor network. A prototype should be developed before the project ends in September 2020 and will “save costs in future and automate previously complex administrative activities,” Rode added. The Hansebloc consortium consists of ten north German partners including four logistics companies, four IT service providers and two universities including the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (HAW Hamburg) and Kühne Logistics University gGmbH (KLU). Launched in April 2018 with a budget of around EUR 3.1 million, the project is co-ordinated by the Cluster Logistik Initiative Hamburg and has received around EUR 1.9 million in funds from the German Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF).

Robob to make port safer and more efficient

The first blockchain project called Robob (Release Order Based on Blockchain) in the Port of Hamburg maps the release of sea freight imports on the blockchain. Launched in August 2018, the joint project is co-ordinated by Dakosy Datenkommunikationssystem AG and the Technical University of Hamburg (TUHH) to improve efficiency in the port. The so-called exemption reference entitles a carrier to collect a container from the terminal. However, the value of the goods being moved places high demands on access to authorization and IT security. Two blockchain alternatives namely Hyperledger, Etherium are to be integrated into the Port of Hamburg’s existing import platform and will be tested for their suitability. The plans also foresee the use of smart contracts i.e. automated, digital contracts. The project with a volume of EUR 1.3 million is funded to 56 per cent by the German government’s innovative port technologies (IHATEC) programme and lasts until January 2020.