Blockchain technology boosts port competitiveness

Published on: 20 June 2019
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Jean-Christophe BAUDOUIN, Interministerial Delegate for Development of French Ports and Logistics

What is the aim of your delegation?

The government wants to optimise its ports and boost their economy, especially those along the Mediterranean coast, to make them more competitive against their international competitors. Marseille is the main focus, along with other ports along the coast such as Sète and Toulon. They’re an important part of the supply chain for a huge hinterland in south-eastern France that needs to be made more effective, like in other neighbouring countries. This route strategy is also being developed in the Seine valley and Hauts-de-France.

 

Pragmatic proposals ahead

The aim of these proposals will be to improve the supply chain for the route by better connecting the Mediterranean port community, and particularly Marseille, with catchment areas from the natural hinterland, and regions further away (Upper Rhine, Switzerland, etc.), starting from the Rhone route to increase the size of the hinterland.

The proposals will affect various fields and I hope they’ll be very pragmatic. For example, in terms of infrastructure, how can we better organise container freight from the Rhine to Marseille? What kind of infrastructure needs to be put in place? How can we better organise freight from industry to consolidated transport modes? How do you make inland waterway transport a transport mode in its own right? We’re studying all sectors, with the help of economic and institutional stakeholders.

 You’ve been testing blockchain technology. Why?

Blockchain is a relationship of trust between partners exchanging the information required throughout the goods transfer process. This sharing technology speeds up cargo flows and improves tracking, which is a great advantage for operators.

In today’s world, port competition can no longer be thought of in terms of competition between one port and another, but instead as entire logistics systems in competition with each other.  What we’re selling is logistics efficiency, and with their highly integrated and quick supply chains, that’s where our German, Belgian and Dutch competitors excel.  Blockchain combines the resources for integrating the entire supply chain and helps us compete at the right level.

Of course the trial needs to incorporate intermodal transport. We need to use consolidated transport more. We need a highly flexible system that easily tracks transloading so that shippers know exactly where their goods are in real time.

An economic objective

We needed companies who understand all the aspects of information, data interoperability, and containerised cargo processes for logistics flows trials.

As part of a consortium involving GPMM, VBF, CNR and La Caisse des Dépôts, we decided to work with MGI, KeeeX and Buyco for their expertise and technical know-how. Two shippers (Danone Water and Kem One) have also been asked to participate to give the trial the operational dimension requested by shippers.

In September, after the trial, we’ll propose a flexible system that is interoperable with shippers’ systems. What are the advantages for clients?

  • simplicity: we’re focusing on using a single document;
  • speed: less time will be lost since operators will know where to find information and be able to plan ahead;
  • tracking: operators will know exactly where goods are, their transport mode and administrative status.

 

With blockchain technology, our goal is economic rather than technical.  Goods need to be transported more quickly, in a well-managed framework in order to stand up to global competition.  Ports where cargo transits quickly are those where information travels quickly.

This affects everyone

Logistics professionals need to understand that they are part of the same supply chain. The goal of our delegation and its blockchain project is to bring together the main links. The current and future competitiveness of our port communities depends on it. Blockchain technology is an example of what can be done.

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