Since millions of tons of goods are shipped on the world’s oceans every year, modern merchant shipping is characterized by the use of many different documents. The documentation requirements on board a merchant vessel range from the keeping of ship certificates and the preparation of ship logs to the transport documents required for the actual transport.
The Bill of Lading (B/L) is still the most important document in the freight transport sector. It fulfils several functions: On the one hand, it proves that a good has been loaded by the carrier in the described form. On the other hand, it certifies the obligation to deliver the goods to the destination and hand them over to the recipient. Furthermore, the transfer of ownership of the goods specified in the B/L can be replaced by the transfer of the B/L (document of title).
Previously, it was necessary to hand over the B/L in paper form so that the parties involved in the transport process could check and verify the documents. This process requires an immense amount of time and money.
The German legislator has recognized the necessity of a digital B/L. With the introduction of sector 516, paragraph 2 of the German Commercial Code, digital records of the B/L have become equivalent to a paper-based B/L. It is investigated how digital B/L could look like in order to meet the requirements of previous freight documents. The researchers want to solve this task with the blockchain technology, where databases are generated by a cryptographic procedure.
The stored content cannot be manipulated, even if different users access it. According to experts for blockchain technology, the digital B/L, also known as Token B/L, can be created, transferred, and checked for correctness and accuracy within seconds at the click of a mouse. In addition, the use of the Token B/L significantly accelerates the transfer, which could lead to enormous savings in the logistics industry. Especially against the background of the ongoing crisis in the shipping industry, companies are dependent on further cost savings.
The central goal of the project is to develop a legally compliant platform based on blockchain technology to enable the creation and trading of digital documents such as Token B/Ls. The distributed structure creates trust and transparency. Research is being conducted on how to enable secure authentication of the participating actors on the basis of global federal and decentralized identity management.
The permanent legal support of the project ensures that the Token B/L always meets the legal requirements. Thus, the project makes a significant contribution to the blockchain strategy of the German government. The use of the Token B/L eliminates the time-consuming paper-based documentation of the transport as well as the cost-intensive manual document checking. Containers for which a Token B/L is issued can be put back into circulation up to 5 days faster.
Haptik is coordinated by the University of Oldenburg. As a partner in the project, OFFIS takes on the part of enabling a secure authentication of the involved actors on the basis of a globally federated and decentralized identity management. In addition, OFFIS leads the integration of to technical platform services to be developed into the Maritime Connectivity Platform (MCP), in order to achieve interoperability between the planned platform and common maritime systems on board of a ship and ashore. This also includes IT security aspects like encryption. This project uses the OFFIS research platform eMIR to test and demonstrate the use of maritime systems on board a ship via the MCP.
The project is funded by the BMWi (Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy).