On Sunday, China’s OneConnect Financial Technology Co, which is owned by diversified insurer (and “Smart Cities” investor) Ping An Group, together with Hong-Kong-headquartered multinational China Merchants Group—a key player in China’s Belt and Road Initiative—announced the successful launch of a “smart port” initiative using blockchain technology.

The so-called “Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area Port Logistics and Trade Facilitation Blockchain Platform Project” will serve the ports of Shekou and Shunde, two of the 37 ports in the Greater Bay Area, one of the world’s largest port zones.

By introducing an integrated “linked port” ecosystem, OneConnect’s blockchain-powered technology aims to improve communication and streamline port clearance processes, allowing trade participants to verify the authenticity of any trade transaction by validating cross-border trade information registered on the blockchain.

The technology project is part of a new infrastructure plan being promoted Shenzhen’s municipal government and other government entities in the region.

Pilot

OneConnect announced that in its successful pilot project, 200 twenty-foot equivalents (TEUs) of real goods were imported and exported between the ports of Shekou and Shunde. Technology linking the two ports reduced import and export-related logistics processes from five to seven days to just two days, while associated transportation and customs declaration costs fell by 30 percent.

Now live, the smart port will use advanced technologies, including blockchain, big data, artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing, to enable smart regulation, trade and finance processes. As technical partner for the project, OneConnect built the core port logistics data standards and the blockchain platform.

China Merchants Group’s port in Western Shenzhen will act as a key smart port, to allow resource sharing through blockchain technology, promoting efficient logistics and a digital ecosystem for port shipping in the Greater Bay Area.

Smart regs

A “smart port” automates various strategic functions across the enterprise. OneConnect’s platform integrates smart regulation, for example, to streamline customs clearance processes. This, in turn, cuts the number of customs declaration procedures from two to one, by using cross-validation capabilities made possible by blockchain technology and real-time information capture through Internet of Things (IoT)-based processes.

As data on the blockchain cannot be tampered with and allows for automatic cross-verification via encrypted data, OneConnect says it will ensure that logistics data is traceable and impossible to change, thus enhancing authentication processes for logistics and transportation.

The platform will also issue real-time warnings to assist the customs departments in managing any sensitive data regarding ships, containers and cargo.

Smart ports 

In May of this year, China Merchant Ports Group Bai Jingtao told trade publication Seatrade Maritime News that CMP was promoting intelligent port development in three Chinese cities, namely Shenzhen, Ningbo and Zhanjiang.

In Shenzhen, he noted, three major smart port projects were already operational: China Container Terminal’s RTG (rubber-tired gantry crane) Remote Control System (the largest such remote-control terminal in China); Shekou Container Terminal (SCT) and CCT’s shoreside intelligent cargo handling system; and the Mawan intelligent port project at Haizing terminal. The latter project, Mawan, has been the site for a so-called “5G Intelligent Port Innovation Laboratory” that was jointly established by CMP, China Mobile, Huawei and other entities in June 2019.

Recent market research has projected the size of the global smart port market at nearly $14 billion by 2027, reflecting a CAGR of 32.4% over the period. Growth drivers include the need for throughput improvements across different types of ports, and operational cost pressures, as well as greater need for real-time trade data visibility to aid in port-authority decision making processes.

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