The project saw 17 tonnes of almonds shipped and tracked from Victoria, Australia, to Hamburg in Germany. The blockchain-based collaboration was between the private bank and five Australian and international supply chain leaders.
The bank tested a new blockchain platform, smart contracts and the internet of things (IoT) to facilitate the trade experiment. It tracked the shipment from packer to end delivery, mirroring existing processes.
Ethereum currently has the most development activity globally. The Commonwealth Bank said it offers “the functionality we require”. However, it admits: “Other blockchains are developing rapidly and CBA remains open to other options in the future.”
The developing CBA platform will eventually be set up on a private blockchain, meaning that only participants who are authorised can access information. The private blockchain is a network of known and trusted parties.
Chris Scougall is Managing Director of Industrials and Logistics in Client Coverage at CBA. He said of the Ethereum experiment: “Our blockchain-enabled global trade platform experiment brought to life the idea of a modern global supply chain that is agile, efficient and transparent.”
“We believe that blockchain can help our partners reduce the burden of administration on their businesses and enable them to deliver best-in-class services to their customers.”
The Ethereum experiment saw the CBA partner with global agriculture brand Olam Orchards Australia Pty Ltd. It also teamed up with Pacific National for rail haulage, port landlord Port of Melbourne, stevedore Patrick Terminals and shipping carrier OOCL Limited. Hardware and software support was provided by Australian IoT provider LX Group.
Alex Toone is CBA Managing Director of Global Commodities and Trade. He said: “By bringing together partners from across the end to end supply chain and developing a new platform underpinned by emerging technology, blockchain and IoT, we were able to prove a concept to modernise global trade.”
The platform digitises three key areas of global trade – operations, documentation and finance – by housing the container information, completion of tasks and shipping documents, on a purpose-built blockchain.
Participants in the Ethereum experiment were able to view and track the location of the shipment. They were also able to monitor the conditions inside the container via IoT devices. Reports suggest the data provided everyone in the supply chain with greater level of transparency and efficiency. They could check the location, condition and authentication of the goods being transported.
Emma Roberts is Supply Chain Manager at Olam Orchards Australia Pty Ltd. She said: “Trade inefficiency can be extremely detrimental to our business. It is vital that as an industry, we look at emerging technology for ways to enhance the supply chain to develop a more transparent and efficient platform. This project has shown that through collaboration from all parts of the supply chain that this can be achieved.”
The blockchain-enabled supply chain allows partners to upload and access key documents.
Gerhard Ziems, Chief Financial Officer of Pacific National, said: “Since the expansion of globalisation, global supply chains have continued to become more complex.”
“This project is unique as it looks to re-imagine how the supply chain communicates and shares information. Simple access to this information provides us with an ability to better utilise our assets and provide customers with better, more efficient services.”
Ashley Dinning, Chief Commercial Officer, Patrick Terminals said of the Ethereum project: “We are always looking for ways to innovate and drive better results. This project has provided a heightened level of transparency, enabling us to explore further efficiencies for our business, such as improving yard management.”
Melissa Poon, General Manager for Trade and Development at the Port of Melbourne, said: “Emerging blockchain technology creates the potential for multi-beneficial productivity gains to Australia’s supply-chain. Through understanding volume loads and shipments coming down the supply chain, we are able to prepare strategies to meet the trade demands of the future. We are excited to be involved in such a ground-breaking project.”
In 2016, CBA and US-based bank Wells Fargo successfully completed the first global trade transaction via blockchain between two independent banks. This latest project built upon that work, examining how CBA could help its partners optimise working capital and asset utilisation, explore trade finance concepts and potential for in-app payment and invoicing.