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Singapore’s ship registry revolution

Powered by Perlin’s Wavelet blockchain, the new International E-Registry of Ships promises significant savings in terms of time, money and worry.

This past October, the Singapore Shipping Association (SSA), the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and Singaporean tech startup firm Perlin jointly announced that they are working together “to build an advanced digital blockchain ship registration preparation system for international adoption”. Called the International E-Registry of Ships (IERS), the system represents “an entirely new digital blockchain-based solution to streamline, standardise and drastically improve the currently laborious ship registration and renewal process”.

Fully supported by the Marine and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and employing Perlin’s Wavelet Protocol, the IERS promises to offer industry “a blockchain e-register powered by self-executing smart contracts, a streamlined relationship management platform and vastly simplified data-entry user systems”. Moreover, automated document checking and application programming interface (API) integration from trusted data sources “will also render inefficient manual systems currently used effectively obsolete”.

“The precise timing for completed development and implementation is difficult to pin down, but with the strong support of the SSA, ICC and MPA, we expect progress to be relatively fast,” says Darren Toh, Perlin co-founder and head of communications & compliance. Indeed, “subject to cooperation from all necessary shipping industry stakeholders”, this could be as early as the first half of next year.

“The key challenge to achieve this (which we do not believe is a high barrier) is the in-depth operational industry R&D needed to support development of a fully digital solution by our blockchain team that replaces the existing manual systems used by shipping companies and the MPA under the Singapore flag,” he continues. “[For example,] mapping the existing detailed and multi-stakeholder process flows will require deep industry support to help Perlin develop a practical, operational and commercially viable solution.”

Once up and running, though, the IERS “will streamline and make the process of registering ships significantly more efficient and cost-effective”. Furthermore, Toh says, “the immutable blockchain registry will serve as a secure database to significantly reduce fraud and discrepancies” while offering “an advanced relationship manager system” that will provide an “easy way for partners and different parties to interact with each other”.

What’s more, “as a fully digital registration and renewal process for ships involving MPA, the relevant class, insurers, shipyard and other relevant parties who can plug in using an API”, the IERS will result in “less time/documentation/communication needed for each registration”; “substantial reductions in operational costs”; and “an interoperable digital identity for ships” that “will support increased security and interaction with other existing and future digital systems”. Additionally, it will also provide users with “a rich source of data for insights, analytics and opportunities for optimisation”.

In terms of the general security of the system, Toh states: “One of the key properties of public blockchains (like ours) is that they are decentralised. This means that any potential hackers would need to successfully hack a network of ‘nodes’ that secure the network (potentially thousands to millions of computers globally) simultaneously as opposed to a single database (like that currently being used). This is one of the key reasons blockchain has gotten so much attention.”

Meanwhile, when it comes to privacy, he reports that “cutting-edge cryptography is a key component” of both the Wavelet Protocol and the applications built on top of it. “This provides powerful security for all underlying data put on-chain. A prime method of verifying data without revealing the underlying data is known as ‘zero knowledge proof’, which allows parties to verify something is true (e.g. that a specific ship has all the requisite characteristics needed for registration) without breaching privacy on any data that is commercial-in-confidence. Cutting-edge encryption methods can also be integrated into the system to provide additional security.”

Wavelet, he states, is “the only publicly available ‘leaderless proof-of-stake’ blockchain” on the market. “In practice, this means that there is no concentration of power/influence on Wavelet that is conducive to cartels or malicious coordinated conduct. It is truly decentralised and secured by the entire network of nodes, which can be from thousands to millions of devices globally depending on adoption.”

But Wavelet’s benefits do not stop there, with Toh asserting that it is also “the fastest public blockchain” available, being able to process more than 31,000 transactions per second (TPS) while “finalising transactions in a matter of 1-4 seconds across millions of nodes”. At the same time, it also “supports WebAssembly smart contracts”, meaning that “developers that can already build using the world’s most commonly known code languages, like JavaScript and Rust, can start building on Wavelet immediately” without having “to learn a new code language”.

“Running a ‘node’ that secures the [Wavelet] blockchain requires only 512MB RAM and a healthy Internet connection – the lowest barrier to entry to running a full node for a blockchain. This means that people will one day be able to run nodes on their mobile phones,” he says. “We are open source and have very low requirements to participate in securing the network. This will allow anyone anywhere to join the network and help secure it.”

And when it comes to the future adoption of the IERS, Toh notes that the ICC “is actively supporting Perlin” to implement it at other ports across the globe. “With a network of 45 million member businesses in 130 countries, the ICC is the world’s largest business organisation and unparalleled in its network influence,” he says. “The ICC is also the supra-national body responsible for developing and upholding international standards for industry and trade, which it will apply to the IERS once developed. Once implemented successfully in Singapore, we expect to drive adoption globally working closely with the ICC.”

About Author

Brian Dixon is a business and industry journalist with more than 20 years' experience writing about ports and logistics. A member of the Chartered Institute of Journalists, he has covered stories on six continents. He divides his time between the UK and East Asia

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