Blockchain-enabled VGM tool tops 23,000 transactions in nine months

22nd March 2017 London, UK: Kestrel Group, the UK’s largest liner agency and freight management company, has signed a strategic partnership with Marine Transport International to use its blockchain-enabled SOLASVGM™ product.

SOLASVGM™, which this week processed its 23,000th transaction since going live in July 2016 (up from 12,000 in December), allows shippers and their supply chains to submit VGM information of multiple containers through one portal directly to carriers, no matter who they are working with. Kestrel has offices worldwide and both its freight forwarding and liner agency businesses will now be deploying the product as part of its global digitalisation strategy.

Andy Thorne, founder and chairman of Queen’s Award recipient Kestrel Group, said ‘Shipping is evolving rapidly, and the industry is waking up to the need for digitalisation. When Kestrel started in 1994 as the new kids on the block, we brought to the marketplace our spirit of entrepreneurialism and openness to change, facilitating many ways to be at the leading edge of shipping. Blockchain solutions are now the new way of doing business, whilst Kestrel’s core values for continual improvement are still inherent to the success of our business. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Kestrel would be part of this. I am delighted that we are able to partner with Marine Transport International to be on the ground floor as blockchain technology revolutionises the service we can deliver to our customers and the way we do business.’

The introduction of the VGM requirements on 1st July 2016 has created what some in the industry estimate to be a $4 billion market, as different players in the sector have applied new charges. In many cases, shippers are having to cover the additional costs themselves.

Thorne sees SOLASVGM™ as a solution to the increased costs, as well as improving health and safety. ‘The IMO regulations are designed to stop overweight containers from getting onto ships, but there’s little to stop them on our roads. By using SOLASVGM, we are connected to weighbridges and load points at the beginning of the journey, so we can stop overweight containers being loaded onto lorries.’

‘And not only does it increase health and safety in the industry, but will also provide significant benefit to our customers by saving them time and money through managing VGMs digitally.’

Jody Cleworth, CEO of Marine Transport International, said ‘There’s been an explosion of interest in how blockchain can transform the supply chain and logistics industry. A lot of it is talk, but Kestrel’s commitment to finding new ways to digitise its business through this partnership is yet more proof that we have a real, practical application which is having a significant impact.’

SOLASVGM™, developed by Marine Transport International in partnership with Big Data company Black Swan, is built on blockchain technology, a ledger where transactions are recorded and can be shared with multiple parties without needing to go through a central point. The system creates a verifiable digital paper trail as it tracks physical assets in a digital form, collecting a vast array of data (including, but not limited to, container size, type and number, shipping line, haulier, commodity and its description, plus all associated paperwork, including any regulatory and customs clearance documentation).

This means that whilst customers will remain compliant with the IMO SOLAS requirements by using the system as a digital distribution mechanism for verified gross mass, they also have the required information to continue other downstream processes, unrelated to the weight legislation.

Cleworth continued ‘We’re talking about a supply chain solution for Industry 4.0. The landside supply chain remains largely unconnected, in part because of the multitude of different systems out there. For us, it doesn’t matter if customers work with legacy EDIFACT systems or have API connectivity. We can connect people together, whether they’re carriers, agents, hauliers, ports, shippers, consignees or forwarders, sharing one version of the truth through the blockchain.’

‘That transparency means increased health and safety, not just at sea but from load point to quayside, it means everyone being able to speak to each other with the same information, and it means unlocking significant value above and beyond the requirements of the IMO SOLAS legislations.’