Maersk, the Danish shipping business, was another traditional company trying to compete in an increasingly digital and disrupted world. It struggled to understand how to respond to a new generation of shipping innovators, alternative transport providers, and digital disruptors.

And then it thought again.

Last year I interviewed Jim Hagemann Snabe, chairman of Maersk, on stage at the Thinkers50 European Business Forum in Odense. Snabe had recently joined the board after a career largely in technology, with SAP and Siemens, and also as digital advisor to the World Economic Forum.

How would he turn an old shipping line into a digital business, I asked him?

Soon afterwards Maersk started exploring blockchain, and how it could revolutionise the traditional processes of shipping goods around the world – everything from the intensive paperwork required through every port, to tracking just in time goods that need to find their way rapidly around the world to market.

Today AP Moller-Maersk, as it is more formally known, describes itself as an integrated container logistics company, connecting and simplifying trade to help our customers grow and thrive, with a dedicated team of over 76,000, operating in 130 countries, the largest shipping company in the world.

However change is never easy, particularly in a traditional business where most workers have done the same jobs in the same ways for many years. The speed and glamour of Silicon Valley or Shenzhen might seem far removed.

This is it’s way of engaging people, inside and outside Maersk, in its future:

“We are not doing this halfway. 

We are going all the way. Challenging ourselves to stay ahead of the curve for our customers. Pushing boundaries to connect and simplify their supply chains.”

This is your brain

It is your reptilian brain that holds you back. When new opportunities arise and you want to go all the way. It has been like this for millions of years.

That’s why change is hard.

It’s a neurological fact

Watch professor of psychology, Henrik Høgh-Olesen, explain why the reptilian brain fights change and how to work around it to evolve.

We are going all the way – pushing the boundaries to discover new and valuable connections between people, processes and data to find new paths to growth for our customers.”

Here are three examples of projects within the transformation:

Example 1: Maersk Spot

Imagine if a restaurant was like shipping

You wouldn’t accept complex booking, overbooking nor price uncertainty. So why do it in shipping? Introducing Maersk Spot with loading guarantee, easy online booking and a fixed price at booking.

We believe it’s shipping the way it’s meant to be, and we hope you think the same. Take a closer look and see how to get your cargo moving the simplest way.

Example 2: Cleaning up the oceans

The only way the plastic issue can be alleviated is by working all together, contributing with the best of our capabilities and engaging ourselves into groundbreaking solutions. This is the main reason for Maersk to keep supporting The Ocean Cleanup in the relaunch of its upgraded drifting system to the Pacific.

We sail the oceans every day and see the plastic problem growing. At current levels, by 2050 our oceans will contain more plastic than fish. With an estimated 5 trillion pieces of plastic waste littering all major ocean basins. This crucial problem is a high priority on our agenda. That´s the reason why Maersk Supply Services keeps providing offshore project management and vessel operations support to a re-developed offshore cleaning system.

They spent three months at the Pacific Ocean testing and collecting relevant data. Due to a structural malfunctioning of the cleanup system, The Ocean Cleanup took the decision to return to port earlier than planned to -based on findings and data- upgrade the system.

Following six months of onshore work, The Ocean Cleanup is now ready to re-send its upgraded passive drifting system to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, located roughly midway between California and Hawaii.

In Maersk we believe that, setbacks like this are inevitable when pioneering new technology and we know that, being in port has provided The Ocean Cleanup with the opportunity to make upgrades to a system that it is expected to be back at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by the end of June 2019.

Example 3: TradeLens

TradeLens is an open and neutral industry platform underpinned by Blockchain technology, supported by major industry players. It is a Maersk and IBM solution formerly known as Global Trade Digitization (GTD), is a trade platform for containerized shipping, connecting the entire supply chain ecosystem. Some of the benefits include:

  • An open, neutral, and distributed platform underpinned by Blockchain technology
  • Seamless, permissioned document and data sharing with a common access control structure
  • Ecosystem participants access the platform through open APIs

The TradeLens platform integrates trade data from industry partners onto a common, secure business network, and will provide real-time, secure access to end-to-end supply chain information to all actors involved in a global shipping transaction. Using the platform, you can publish events related to a consignment (shipment) or transport equipment (container), and set up subscriptions to be notified when events occur that match your subscriptions.

TradeLens allows you to manage the documents involved with a consignment. Submitted documents generate events for your documents. This adds to the complete view of activities involved with your consignment or transport equipment. The TradeLens document functions could be used as part of the process of submitting filings for the import and export of goods by enabling end users to securely submit, stamp, and approve documents.

You can use TradeLens directly through REST APIs, or through the Shipment Manager UI. The Shipment Manager (SM) component provides a web user interface to interact with the platform. You can view the events related to a consignment, and perform operations on documents.

Blockchain addresses the underlying challenges inherent in collaborating across a distributed, fragmented supply chain ecosystem:

  • Shared Ledger – Append-only distributed system of record shared across business network
    A network of industry participants maintains a distributed, permissioned ledger with copies of document filings, relevant supply chain events, authority approval status, and full audit history; every change results in a new, immutable block
  • Smart Contract – Shared business logic governing what transactions may be written to the ledger
    Cross-organizational business processes, such as import and export clearance, are pre-programmed and built into Blockchain and distributed to and executed on the network, preventing any member from changing the business logic
  • Privacy – Ensuring appropriate visibility; transactions are secure, authenticated and verifiable
    Cryptography enables permissioned access so only the parties participating in a specific consignment can submit, edit or approve related data
  • Trust – Transactions are endorsed by relevant participants
    Information such as documentation filings and authority approvals can only be changed if endorsed by the parties taking part in the consignment; full audit history maintained on the Blockchain