Port congestion is one of the “elephants in the room”, particularly in South Africa – frustrating the shipping industry. TFG spoke to Global Trade Solutions CEO on the potential for DLT to help alleviate these issues.
South Africa is situated on one of the busiest international sea routes, critical to international maritime transportation. More importantly it is the lifeline of the South African import and export industries, with the numerous industries that are totally dependent on the combination of road and sea transportation to get their goods into and out of South Africa and the broader African continent.
Port accessibility and the last mile delivery is however not only critical to South Africa, but the whole of the African continent, where logistical costs and timeframes are some of the highest in the world.
Port congestion is one of the “elephants in the room” frustrating traders, logistical service providers, shipping lines as well as the road transport industry alike. From the road industry perspective, it affects productivity, has major financial implications as well as health and safety concerns for the road industry participants. Delays of hours and even days have been reported when collecting or delivering containers into and out of the ports in South Africa and Africa in general. Despite years of promises things just do not seem to be getting better and in fact the congestion experienced during 2019 were some of the worst in recent history.
What makes matters worse is that everyone is blaming everyone else: there is no reliable information available and the current centralised port community systems and approach are not functioning optimally.
Global Trade Solution – Blockchain Based Approach to Port Congestion
This poses a serious challenge to a variety of industry role players and Global Trade Solution (GTS) decided to look into the problem to see if there is not a simplified way to make information more readily available and to ensure that this information is reliable and accurate. The approach taken was to keep it simple and come up with a technology based solution that could address the information problem. Once the information can be trusted and are consistently available, the focus could move to addressing the real problems instead of guessing where the problem exists and who is responsible.
GTS have found a way to alleviate and potentially solve the information problem through the use of Mobile and Blockchain technology and to create a digitized data flow that will benefit all industry role-players involved in the movement of goods in and out of the ports and to create last-mile transparency.
According to Louise Wiggett, MD of Global Trade Solutions, the company’s eDriver application timely and accurate records critical information and creates the ability to identify problems or delays in advance and makes this information available to the relevant authorised parties in real-time. This is a huge step towards solving port congestion problems and creating visibility of where the actual problems exists.
Working in partnership with IBM TradeLens, an open industry standard Blockchain technology platform that promotes the exchange of information across the global shipping industry, the combination of the blockchain technology and the digitization of the last mile activities will become an industry leader in the future.
Wiggett says the eDriver digitised solution is very simple and easy to use. The application can be loaded onto each truck driver’s smartphone (routinely issued by companies anyhow) and the driver logs into the app.
The driver receives the information of which container to collect and it’s location and the geo-tracking process starts once the driver departs from the depot. The eDriver application geo-tags when the driver arrives at the port gate, when the container is hooked up and loaded and when the truck exits the port gate. This enables the depot manager to track and manage the process in real-time.
In addition, the driver takes photographs as proof of evidence when uploading and off-loading the container, as well as any supporting documentation that might be required. When taking an empty container back, the reverse process takes place. This information is then made available to the Tradelens Blockchain solution where it is disseminated to the wider community that forms part of the approved parties in the process flow.
‘‘Apart from the low cost and ease of adoption, eDriver makes the driver feel more in control and removes the burden from the driver to provide updates to all the parties”, comments Wiggett. The bottom line is that through the combination of the blockchain and mobile applications all the information becomes available to all parties in near real time.
A pilot project was successfully completed during the November and December 2019 period with a group of interested road hauliers in Cape Town, South Africa and eDriver is now ready to be deployed throughout the African continent.
Hear Louise speaking at the WTO Blockchain Forum!
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