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Successful blockchain pilot scheme points to enhanced efficiencies at France’s largest seaport.

The Port of Marseille Fos (Grand Port Maritime de Marseille; GPMM) has just completed a blockchain pilot scheme that, it reports, “has proven the solution’s scope for enhancing intermodal freight movements” on the key Mediterranean-Rhône-Saône (MeRS) logistics corridor. “Results from trials held over recent months have now been reviewed at a meeting hosted by the Port and demonstrated that [the] harmonisation of the digital transport chain improved fluidity, reliability and competitiveness of pre- and post-forwarding on the crucial hinterland axis,” it says.

First announced in February, the blockchain trial kicked off at the start of the summer with a focus on export processes between the GPMM and the Port of Lyon. Specifically, it sought to establish whether a blockchain system, viz a distributed and decentralised digital public ledger, could enable users to securely share and access protected data, ranging in scope from customs documentation to pertinent container tracking information.

Managed and co-ordinated by the GPMM, the scheme was conducted by three local tech firms, namely Marseille Gyptis International (MGI), which specialises in cargo tracking services; BuyCo, which operates an online collaborative platform to help shippers simplify their container import and export movements; and blockchain technology developer KeeeX. At the same time, the tests “were supported by various manufacturing companies”, including plastics producer KemOne and alumina producer Alteo, as well as their respective logistics service providers (LSPs) and Marseille-based freight forwarder Transcausse.

“The blockchain technology used, called KeeeX Stories, allows [users] to register authenticated and verifiable sequences of supply chain events, data and documents produced and consumed by the parties that pertain to the transport of containers over the [MeRS] axis,” KeeeX explains. “The solution allows for the early sharing of documents, authenticated photographs, characteristic events and forecast information (on the loading of containers, their weight, origin and destination) that help optimise the overall logistics process, provide new services and anticipate ever-increasing traceability requirements.”

Among other things, the system deployed, KeeeX continues, “enables the exploitation of data from ships”, including pollution measures and certificates. Furthermore, the provision of a mobile application for QR code flashing, character recognition and easy text entry “opens up possibilities for new sources of ROI, value and services” to operators, carriers, LSPs and freight forwarders alike by inter alia “anticipating document creation and sharing [and] customs clearance”.

“The ultimate aim is to streamline transporting multimodal cargo on this important transport passageway,” BuyCo says. “This technology is all about sharing and securely tracking transactions and cargo by pooling real-time data. Every stakeholder involved is a trusted third party; they can access and supply the information chain and monitor every transaction and document, but are unable to modify them.” Meanwhile, the blockchain system, it adds, also “gives stakeholders permanent visibility over logistics flows by making it easier for them to anticipate crucial aspects”.

The pilot project comprises part of the wider Le French Smart Port in Med initiative that, established by the Marseille Provence Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the GPMM and Aix Marseille Provence University, seeks to improve the economic and environmental performance of the port and its hinterland while also creating “new sources of value and employment”, particularly in the digital sector. Co-funded by the GPMM, the Banque des Territoires, Voies Navigables de France and the Compagnie Nationale du Rhône, the pilot scheme was initially conceived to handle a relatively limited range of documents and data, such as booking numbers, seal numbers and CMRs. However, the long-term goal, as BuyCo notes, “is to cover every process and document exchange within the supply chain”.

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