Pacific International Lines (PIL) recently collaborated with IBM (International Business Machines Corporation) by utilising the tech firm’s newly developed blockchain technology in the tracking of mandarin oranges shipment from China to Singapore.

It was announced on 1 February 2019 that 3,000 cartons which contained around 108,000 of the fruits, surmounting to a weight of approximately 28 tons, were delivered for the upcoming Chinese New Year celebration.

A blockchain was used to record the shipment’s bill of lading, a significant document mandatory for all international trades. The document serves as a proof of ownership as well as a receipt for the shipped goods. The bill also serves as a contract for the shipment and is typically mailed to all parties involved in the trade, which included financial service firms that aided the trade.

Currently, the electronic bill of lading called e-BL, was created by IBM for the purpose of reducing and speeding up administrative processes by automating the otherwise lengthy document flow. The company claimed that the typical paper-based procedure of transferring the goods would take up around five to seven days to complete, whilst the e-BL could complete the whole process in just “one second”.

Another benefit of the e-BL which could be considered to be a ‘by-product’ of its time-saving capability is maintaining the freshness of goods. As the overall shipment time was shortened significantly, shipped goods which qualities are partly based on their freshness, such as the currently delivered mandarin oranges, would need to be kept in storages for a shorter amount of time and delivered to their buyers sooner.

Additionally, costs were also cut down as administrative processes for shipments were reduced as goods waiting for collection stored at port were stored for a shorter amount of time. Electricity cost required for electricity-powered refrigerated cargo containers and storage cost went down as the e-BL sped up administrative processes.

The e-BL was stated to handle information better as a trackable storage of records that could not be interfered was provided. Tay Khiam Back, chairman and CEO of Hupco, which is the company that imported the mandarin oranges, stated that the utilisation of the e-BL simplified the entire shipment process and made it more transparent while saving costs as well.

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