Todd Scott

VP Blockchain Global Trade, IBM Blockchain, IBM

Supernova Award Category: 

Data-Driven Digital Networks (DDNs) and Business Models

The Organization: 

TradeLens is a blockchain-based container shipping platform giving the supply chain ecosystem unprecedented access to logistics data and trade documents, enabling digital collaboration across parties in the supply chain, and ushering in a digital transformation in global trade.

TradeLens has been jointly developed and operated by Maersk and IBM.

By reducing the friction inherent in today’s global supply chains, TradeLens enables all participants to increase visibility, improve operational efficiencies, make informed data-driven decisions, coordinate activities with their partners, react to issues in real time, and provide better customer service.

The Problem: 

TradeLens is focused on several key challenges:

Data trapped in organizational silos - Information is held in paper and various digital formats across dozens of service providers along the supply chain, requiring complex, cumbersome, and costly peer-to-peer messaging. The result is inconsistent information across organizational boundaries, latency in obtaining shipment visibility, and blind spots that hinder the efficient flow of goods.

Manual, time-consuming, paper-based processes - The collection and processing of up-to-date data, as well as inefficient trade document exchange, requires manual checks and frequent follow-ups and results in errors, delays and high compliance costs. Late filings are common due to missing information.

Clearance takes too long and is often subject to fraud - Risk assessments by customs authorities lack sufficient and trusted information resulting in high inspection rates, added prevention measures against fraud and forgery, and delayed customs clearance.

High costs and poor customer service - These challenges have significant downstream repercussions. The inability to forecast and plan effectively, address supply chain disruptions in near real-time, and share trusted information across the supply chain leads to excessive safety stock inventory, high administrative costs, operational challenges, and ultimately poor customer service.

The Solution: 

TradeLens is comprised of three key layers:

The Ecosystem - The foundation of TradeLens is its business network — shippers, freight forwarders, ports and terminals, ocean carriers, intermodal operators, government authorities, customs brokers and more. Each entity shares information that can be tracked, stored and actioned across the platform throughout a shipment’s journey.

The Platform - The TradeLens Platform is accessible via an open API and brings together the ecosystem through a set of open standards. Powered by Hyperledger Fabric blockchain technology and IBM Cloud, the platform enables the industry to share information and collaborate securely.

The Marketplace – TradeLens supports a marketplace that allows both TradeLens and third-parties to publish fit-for-purpose applications atop the TradeLens Platform, fostering supply chain innovation and value creation.

The Results: 

TradeLens is one of the fastest growing blockchain platforms built to support the needs of cargo shippers around eh world. The platform supports more than half the world’s ocean fright.

No other company has more live networks than IBM which has learned from work with clients about the type of governance, data ownership, security principles and shared decision-making to get blockchain right.


As of June 2020, the Tradelens Ecosystem includes more than 175 diverse organizations from around the world. TradeLens has also processed more than 1.2 billion events, published more than 10 million trade documents and supported the shipments of more than 24 million containers

TradeLens is now working with six of the worlds 10 largest ocean carriers.

The Technology: 

The TradeLens blockchain is a shared, immutable ledger that records transactions and tracks tangible  and intangible assets. While the power of TradeLens comes from its members, blockchain enables secure distribution and storage of vital information at the heart of the platform. TradeLens uses the IBM Blockchain Platform, an open-source permissioned blockchain where the peer members (“Trust Anchors”) are known to the network based on cryptographic identities.

Disruptive Factor: 

TradeLens is pursuing a unique strategy (industry leading player plus global enterprise technologist, embracing an open blockchain platform). We are focused on a few key pillars to drive major change.


Connect the Ecosystem

We are bringing together all parties in the supply chain— including traders, freight forwarders, inland transportation, ports and terminals, ocean carriers, customs and other government authorities—onto a single, secure data-sharing and collaboration platform.


Drive true information sharing

We are providing for the seamless, secure sharing of real-time, actionable supply chain information across all parties— encompassing shipping milestones, cargo details, trade documents, customs filings, sensor readings and more.


Foster collaboration

We are enabling the digitization and automation of cross- organization business processes integral to global trade, including import and export clearance, and—thanks to blockchain—ensuring all documents and data are secure and auditable.


Spur innovation

We are laying the foundation for ongoing improvement and innovation through an open API environment, the use of standards and promotion of interoperability, and the launch of an Applications Marketplace that allows third parties to build
and deploy applications on the TradeLens Platform.

Shining Moment: 

The key moment came last summer as CMA CGM, MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company, Hapag-Lloyd and Singapore-based Ocean Network Express (ONE) Pte. Ltd all announced support and participation in the TradeLens Ecosystem. With these carriers, the platform now extends to more than half of the world’s ocean container cargo.

About IBM

TradeLens is a blockchain-based container shipping platform giving the supply chain ecosystem unprecedented access to logistics data and trade documents, enabling digital collaboration across parties in the supply chain, and ushering in a digital transformation in global trade.