Unlocking Digital Transformation In Shipping Industry


In a recent development marking a significant stride towards digital transformation, the Global Shipping Business Network (GSBN), headquartered in Hong Kong, unveiled its inaugural prototype product in collaboration with fintech giant Ant Group. This collaboration underscores GSBN’s commitment to leveraging blockchain technology to revolutionize a crucial process within the shipping sector, traditionally entrenched in paper-based practices for centuries.

Digital Evolution 

Led by CEO Bertrand Chen, GSBN, a non-profit organization steered by key stakeholders in the shipping domain such as Cosco Shipping and OOCL, has embarked on a mission since its establishment in October 2020. The objective? To harness blockchain’s potential and propel the global shipping industry into the modern era. This endeavor received a notable endorsement when the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) selected an electronic bill of lading (eBL) as one of the six focal use cases within its wholesale central bank digital currency (wCBDC) sandbox Project Ensemble, launched recently.

Hong Kong’s Pivotal Role

The strategic amalgamation of Hong Kong’s maritime prominence and financial eminence, coupled with its supportive regulatory framework for blockchain and virtual assets, positions the region uniquely to seize this transformative opportunity.

The prototype eBL, a cornerstone of GSBN’s collaborative effort with Ant Group, is already integrated into the wCBDC project, operating on Ant Group’s blockchain infrastructure, ZAN. This milestone partnership, forged in November, underscores the significant strides towards digitization within the shipping sector.

Challenges and Issues

While the shipping industry is ripe for digital disruption, historical reliance on paper-based documentation, exemplified by the bill of lading, presents substantial challenges. Despite industry-wide aspirations for full digitization by 2030, progress has been sluggish, impeded by complex hurdles including legal disparities across jurisdictions.

The Way Ahead

While GSBN’s direct involvement in the wCBDC sandbox is channeled through its partnership with Ant Group, the organization remains steadfast in its pursuit of broader eBL adoption. Since the issuance of its inaugural eBL in January 2023, GSBN’s transaction volume surged to over 120,000 by year-end, with aspirations for further growth in the coming year.

In conclusion, GSBN’s collaborative initiative with Ant Group marks a pivotal moment in the digital transformation journey of the shipping industry. With blockchain poised to redefine traditional practices, Hong Kong emerges as a beacon of innovation, propelling the sector towards greater efficiency and transparency.

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Source: Cointrust