IBM, Maersk scuttle blockchain-based TradeLens supply chain platform

Four years after IBM and Maersk first unveiled TradeLens, the companies have announced they will be withdrawing TradeLens offerings and will discontinue the blockchain-based supply chain platform.

The platform will go offline by the end of the first quarter in 2023. Apparently the platform did not attract enough users to be commercially viable.

"The need for full global industry collaboration has not been achieved," said Rotem Hershko, head of business platforms at A.P. Moller - Maersk, in a statement posted on Maersk's website. "TradeLens has not reached the level of commercial viability necessary to continue work and meet the financial expectations as an independent business."

Launched in 2018 and jointly developed by IBM and GTD Solution, a division of Maersk, TradeLens aimed to digitize and simplify global supply chains via a electronic shipping ledger that records details of cargo shipments as they leave their origin, arrive in ports, are shipped overseas and eventually received.

Where the shipping industry's traditional style of information sharing relied on outdated electronic data interchange (EDI) systems, email, fax, or courier, TradeLens allowed all involved parties in the supply chain to view tracking information such as shipment arrival times and documents such as customs releases, commercial invoices and bills of lading in near real time via its permissioned blockchain ledger.

During its short lifespan, the project built up a network of over 300 members including ocean carriers, terminals, inland depots, customs authorities and intermodal providers.

Despite the closure of the platform, the statement on Maersk's website claims the company will "continue its efforts to digitise the supply chain," increasing industry innovation to reduce trade friction and promote more global trade.

"We will leverage the work of TradeLens as a steppingstone to further push our digitisation agenda and look forward to harnessing the energy and ability of our technology talent in new ways," Hershko said.