Every year, millions of containers are unloaded in the port of Rotterdam, from where they are forwarded to destinations in the hinterland. Collecting these containers in the port is a complicated process, during which shipping companies, freight forwarders, transport firms and terminals need to work closely together to ensure the swift and safe release of this freight. And as a procedure, it also entails a number of risks.

The Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands on July10, 2020 unveiled a new block chain-based project that will make container handling safer and more efficient by automating the release of containers to drivers at the port. The Director of Commerce of the Port of Rotterdam Authority Emile Hoogsteden, Stated that “By taking advantage of new technologies, we can make our port operations smarter, swifter, more efficient, and safer”. During this project, the different participants will be using a block chain application that enables them to safely and efficiently organize the release procedure followed by the various parties in the chain.’

As part of the pilot, the port will make use of distributed ledger block chain technology to track and trace the unloading and release of containers using an application that automatically registers the pickup.

No PIN required

Drivers who plan to collect a specific container at the terminal need to have a valid pick-up right. This authorization is issued by a shipping company. The freight forwarder subsequently orders a transport firm to retrieve the container at the terminal. In the existing arrangement, the pick-up right is confirmed to the terminal by means of a PIN code. This procedure requires a range of manual actions from a number of different parties. Any hitches or errors in the release process can lead to a waste of time, complaints and aggravation among clients and partners, as well as possible opportunities for fraud. The application tested in this trial could replace PIN-based authorization altogether.

Safety Throughout The Chain

The current pilot project will be testing how best to improve the safety of the container release process throughout the chain, from the shipping company to the end user. The application is based on block chain technology. In terms of safety, it can be compared with banking applications – ensuring that the data involved remains exceptionally secure.

Passing The Baton

During the pilot project, the pick-up rights for the import of containers will be converted from a PIN code into a digital token with the aid of a block chain-based application. You could compare it to a relay race: the token is a kind of digital baton that smoothly passes from one party to the next. Block chain technology prevents this authorization from being stolen or copied along the way. This makes the release process safer for everyone in the chain who is involved in the process.

Moreover, the terminal operator can rest assured that the container has been released to the correct driver. After all, there’s only one valid token. Another advantage to this procedure is that it doesn’t reveal who has previously processed the token – meaning that third parties don’t have access to potentially confidential information about commercial relationships. In fact, even T-Mining, the Antwerp-based start-up responsible for developing this solution won’t be able to review this information. T-Mining was selected for participation in the PortXL accelerator programme earlier this year, and is currently working together with companies in Rotterdam and the Port of Rotterdam Authority on the practical execution of this pilot project.

The Port of Rotterdam believes this pilot will allow operations to make the release process safer and more easily tracked for everyone involved in the process by removing a current potential point of failure.

Vimal Baskaran
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