Blockchain for Maritime Supply Chain Transparency

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Blockchain for maritime supply chain transparency involves utilizing blockchain technology to create a shared, immutable record of information related to goods, documents, and transactions as they move through the supply chain. This includes tracking cargo movements, verifying certifications, managing bills of lading, and streamlining financial transactions, enhancing transparency, accountability, and trust among stakeholders.

Impact on climate action

Blockchain for Maritime Supply Chain Transparency enhances low-carbon marine efforts by fostering transparency in logistics, reducing emissions through optimized routes and efficient operations. By tracking carbon footprints and promoting eco-friendly practices, it incentivizes stakeholders to adopt sustainable measures, crucial for mitigating climate change’s impact on marine ecosystems.


  • Distributed Ledger: Blockchain operates as a distributed ledger, meaning that the record of information is not stored in a single central location but is replicated across multiple computers or nodes in a network. This decentralization enhances security and prevents tampering.
  • Immutable Records: Once a transaction or piece of information is added to the blockchain, it cannot be altered or deleted, creating a permanent and auditable record.
  • Smart Contracts: Blockchain platforms can execute smart contracts, which are self-executing agreements that automate processes and trigger actions based on predefined conditions.
  • Cryptographic Security: Blockchain uses cryptography to secure data and transactions, ensuring that only authorized parties have access to sensitive information.

TRL : 6-7

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Cargo Tracking and Traceability: Using blockchain to track the movement of goods from origin to destination, providing real-time visibility and reducing the risk of loss, damage, or theft.
  • Document Management and Verification: Securing and verifying bills of lading, certificates of origin, and other crucial documents on the blockchain, preventing fraud and streamlining documentation processes.
  • Supply Chain Finance: Utilizing blockchain to facilitate faster and more secure financial transactions, such as letters of credit and payments, improving efficiency and reducing costs.
  • Sustainability Certification: Tracking and verifying sustainability certifications, such as eco-labels and carbon footprints, on the blockchain, ensuring authenticity and promoting responsible sourcing.
  • Smart Port Logistics: Integrating blockchain with port management systems to optimize cargo handling, reduce congestion, and enhance overall efficiency.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Decentralized Cargo Tracking
  • Immutable Document Verification
  • Automated Smart Contracts
  • Cryptographically Secured Transactions
  • Real-Time Cargo Visibility
  • Fraud Prevention Measures
  • Streamlined Documentation Processes
  • Enhanced Financial Security
  • Accelerated Transaction Speed
  • Sustainable Sourcing Verification
  • Eco-Label Tracking
  • Carbon Footprint Transparency
  • Smart Port Integration
  • Cargo Handling Optimization
  • Congestion Reduction Strategies
  • Efficient Port Logistics

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • TradeLens:
    • Technology Focus: TradeLens leverages blockchain technology to enhance transparency, security, and efficiency in maritime supply chains. Their platform enables real-time tracking of cargo shipments, digital documentation management, and secure data sharing among stakeholders.
    • Uniqueness: TradeLens stands out for its collaborative approach, bringing together key players in the shipping industry to create a unified platform for supply chain management. Their extensive network of partners and industry expertise contributes to the platform’s credibility and effectiveness.
    • End-User Segments: TradeLens caters to a broad range of stakeholders in the maritime supply chain, including shipping companies, freight forwarders, port authorities, customs agencies, and shippers. By providing transparency and visibility throughout the supply chain, they help optimize operations and reduce inefficiencies.
  • CargoX:
    • Technology Focus: CargoX specializes in blockchain-based solutions for digitizing and automating document workflows in the maritime industry. Their platform, the CargoX Smart Bill of Lading, enables secure and transparent transfer of ownership and other documentation related to cargo shipments.
    • Uniqueness: CargoX differentiates itself through its focus on digital documentation, particularly the digitization of bills of lading—a traditionally paper-based process that is prone to errors and delays. Their blockchain-based solution ensures authenticity, immutability, and accessibility of critical shipping documents.
    • End-User Segments: CargoX primarily targets stakeholders involved in international trade and logistics, including shipping companies, freight forwarders, exporters, importers, and banks. Their solution streamlines document handling processes, reduces paperwork, and accelerates document transfer, benefiting all parties involved in the supply chain.
    • Technology Focus: SHIPNEXT utilizes blockchain technology to optimize maritime logistics and chartering processes. Their platform connects shipowners, charterers, brokers, and other stakeholders in the shipping industry, facilitating transparent and efficient chartering, freight trading, and cargo matching.
    • Uniqueness: SHIPNEXT stands out for its comprehensive platform, which integrates blockchain with artificial intelligence and data analytics to automate and optimize various aspects of maritime logistics. Their solution enables real-time visibility, efficiency gains, and cost savings throughout the chartering process.
    • End-User Segments: SHIPNEXT serves a wide range of participants in the maritime industry, including shipowners, charterers, brokers, traders, port operators, and cargo owners. By digitizing and streamlining chartering processes, they improve transparency, reduce transaction costs, and enhance decision-making for all stakeholders involved in maritime logistics.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • Copenhagen Business School:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at Copenhagen Business School are leveraging blockchain technology to enhance transparency and traceability in the maritime supply chain. They are developing blockchain-based platforms that enable real-time tracking of cargo movements, emissions data, and compliance with environmental regulations.
    • Uniqueness of Research: The research at Copenhagen Business School stands out for its interdisciplinary approach, combining expertise in maritime logistics, sustainability, and blockchain technology. By integrating blockchain into the maritime supply chain, they aim to address challenges such as carbon emissions monitoring, fuel efficiency optimization, and illegal fishing prevention.
    • End-use Applications: The blockchain-based solutions developed at Copenhagen Business School have applications across the maritime industry, including shipping companies, port authorities, and regulatory agencies. These solutions can help improve operational efficiency, reduce emissions, and enhance sustainability throughout the maritime supply chain.
  • National University of Singapore (NUS):
    • Technology Enhancements: NUS researchers are pioneering the use of blockchain technology to facilitate transparency and accountability in the low-carbon marine sector. They are developing blockchain-based platforms that enable secure and tamper-proof recording of emissions data, vessel performance metrics, and supply chain transactions.
    • Uniqueness of Research: NUS’s research is notable for its focus on integrating blockchain with emerging technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT) and satellite imaging for comprehensive environmental monitoring. By combining multiple data sources, they aim to provide stakeholders with a holistic view of the maritime supply chain and its environmental impact.
    • End-use Applications: The blockchain-based solutions developed at NUS have applications across the maritime ecosystem, including shipping companies, port operators, and regulatory bodies. These solutions can support initiatives such as carbon pricing, emissions trading, and sustainability reporting, driving the transition towards a low-carbon maritime industry.
  • Plymouth University:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at Plymouth University are harnessing the power of blockchain technology to improve transparency and trust in the maritime supply chain. They are developing blockchain-based platforms that enable stakeholders to verify the authenticity and integrity of data related to vessel operations, cargo movements, and environmental performance.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Plymouth University’s research stands out for its emphasis on stakeholder engagement and co-creation of blockchain solutions with industry partners. By collaborating with shipping companies, port authorities, and environmental organizations, they ensure that their blockchain platforms meet the specific needs and challenges of the maritime sector.
    • End-use Applications: The blockchain-based solutions developed at Plymouth University have practical applications across the maritime industry, including cargo tracking, regulatory compliance, and sustainability certification. These solutions can help enhance supply chain resilience, mitigate risks, and promote transparency in the transition towards a low-carbon maritime economy.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

While still in its early stages, the commercial implementation of blockchain in the maritime industry is gaining traction. Several pilot projects and proof-of-concept demonstrations have shown the technology’s potential to enhance transparency, efficiency, and security. For example, TradeLens is already being used by several major shipping companies and port authorities, and CargoX has processed thousands of digital bills of lading.