IBM, Maersk Snuff Blockchain Project Due to Lack of Interest

IBM and Danish shipping giant Maersk are scuttling a four-year-old enterprise blockchain project designed to track global trade — another hint that distributed ledger solutions may not yet be viable in the wild.

TradeLens is a blockchain-based logistics platform aimed at digitizing supply chains. It was launched in 2018, a time when multiple economic sectors, including global shipping, sought to revamp various processes with centralized blockchain solutions — most of the time without associated cryptocurrencies.

Hundreds of major companies had signed on to TradeLens at its height. Those included intermodal carriers such as BNSF Logistics and major port operator MSC — the second largest shipping company after Maersk.

TradeLens will be ending by the close of Q1, 2023, the companies said in a Tuesday statement.

“Unfortunately, while we successfully developed a viable platform, the need for full global industry collaboration has not been achieved,” Rotem Hershko, Maersk’s head of business platforms, said.

As such, TradeLens has been unable to attain the level of commercial viability required to continue operating. The project ultimately fell short of financial expectations, undermining its future as a standalone business.

TradeLens was built on IBM proprietary blockchain software which leveraged Hyperledger Fabric, an open-source framework from the Linux Foundation.

Enterprise blockchain networks like TradeLens are far more centralized than major protocols such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. They’re usually entirely permissioned (private), maintained and controlled by a small group of entities (and often just one), rather than hundreds or thousands of unrelated network participants all working together to maintain consensus.

Jointly built by IBM and GTD Solution — a division of Maersk — its intention was to promote efficiency and secure global trade.

Maersk said it would continue efforts to digitize the supply chain and further industry efficiency using other solutions without mentioning what they were. Blockworks has reached out for comment.

“We will leverage the work of TradeLens as a stepping stone to further push our digitization agenda and look forward to harnessing the energy and ability of our technology talent in new ways,” Hershko said.

TradeLens joins a number of other enterprise blockchain projects hitting a brick wall. Earlier this month, the Australian Securities Exchange nixed a blockchain-powered system designed to replace its aging settlement layer after nearly three years of development, having spent around $170 million on the cause.

That followed Microsoft ending its Azure Blockchain Service last year. The platform was launched in 2015 to help companies to deploy their own permissioned blockchain networks.

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