In an evolving global maritime landscape where companies are jumping onto the digitalisation bandwagon, most people are familiar with the use of blockchain to decentralise documentation for shipping and supply chain.

However, besides shipping documentation, blockchain has many other applications across the maritime, supply chain, oil and gas, and energy industries.

This is where CargoLedger B.V. comes in. With a particular focus on the hinterland, as well as first and last mile, CargoLedger delivers a wide spectrum of blockchain solutions to help companies with digital transformation and the sharing of data.

The PortXL Alumni recently concluded a successful pilot with Van Oord by creating a drone logbook, which stores all flights and other relevant data immutable in a blockchain. This allowed Van Oord to share drone data seamlessly with regulatory authorities and partners, thus complying with regulatory requirements via a simpler and paperless method.

CargoLedger concludes pilot with Van Oord

CargoLedger is in the business of sharing data. By replacing traditional paper processes with blockchain, CargoLedger aims to make data-sharing easier and worthwhile. In fact, the company has created the only blockchain-based and accredited waybill solution in Europe.

In this PortXL Alumni Feature, Founder & CEO of CargoLedger Hjalmar van der Schaaf shares his startup journey and the potential of blockchain in the maritime industry.

What is your background?

I graduated from the University of Amsterdam in Business Information. My first job was at Deloitte, which was very much focused on digitising waybills. After that, I worked a few years in the financial sector for a proprietary trading firm, before starting my own company which consulted for telcos, banks and online marketing agencies.

I’ve always been interested in innovation with information technology, so I’ve also founded several startups in this space.

(From Right) Hjalmar presenting CargoLedger’s solution to the Netherlands King Willem-Alexander, the President of the Republic of Singapore Halimah Yacob, Mohammed Abdullah Alhabshee and the Mayor of Rotterdam Ahmed Aboutaleb.

What’s the story behind CargoLedger?

The idea for CargoLedger came about after my business partner and I conducted a business case study with the Universities in Amsterdam about data-sharing in the Netherlands logistics industry. We quickly realised that blockchain could make sharing data easier from bottom-up for logistics and the supply chain. So we started developing prototypes with students, some of whom have since graduated and are now working full time at CargoLedger – which is really great!

CargoLedger was incorporated in October 2017. The team started by literally working from a container office in the Amsterdam Startup Village, living the brand, experiencing every day what it means to be cargo!

In 2018, we made it into the PortXL acceleration program.

Amsterdam Startup Village

How does CargoLedger differentiate from other blockchain companies in the maritime/supply chain space?

What sets us apart is that we start from the hinterland. The hinterland and the last mile provide the biggest challenges in optimising supply chain and logistics. This is how we streamline the process: firstly, we organise and provide solutions that make the process of shipping goods towards the main ports easier. Next, we take on a multimodal approach. We believe that this is the only way to get away from point-solutions and really optimise the entire supply chain.

We’re also convinced that blockchain will change the way we work together. That’s why we’ve started building applications on top of blockchain, which involve the end-user and create opportunities for collaboration.

Can you illustrate some common blockchain use cases for maritime? 

In maritime the most obvious use case is the digital bill of lading, which maintains the unique characteristics and capabilities of a paper-based B/L. The selling and buying of the digital bill-of-lading is way easier, as proof of ownership is stored in a blockchain. Several parties and consortia are working on this.

Also a lot work has been put into creating digital twins, where a digital version of a physical asset – either cargo or a ship – is stored with relevant data into a blockchain. With a unique identifier, the asset can be tracked across its lifecycle for ownership, verification and validation purposes. Maintenance work is logged so there can be transparency and lesser disputes.

Is there a difference between the way blockchain is applied in maritime versus other industries?

At its core, blockchain provides a different model for organising, distributing and centralising information without third parties. This can be applied to any industry where value is transferred.

But particularly for maritime and logistics, combining blockchain with IoT and even artificial intelligence in maritime is very exciting.

For example, autonomous cargo that finds its own way through supply chain and navigates independently of man will only take off if some sort of blockchain-like infrastructure is in place.

There are now many players in the maritime blockchain industry, from the Maersk-IBM TradeLens, GSBN, CargoX to numerous blockchain startups. What is your view on this, especially when it comes to having a common industry-standard?

I think common standards are definitely needed – those will arise and a lot of effort has gone into that already.

It is good to look at existing or arising standards for sharing data, for example, the iSHARE in the Netherlands. And the industry can learn from other sectors, such as the banking industry.

Having said that, my belief is that focusing too much on standards at this stage kills innovation. In the end, it is all information technology and software can be adapted and connected to other software and systems.

What is CargoLedger working on in the upcoming months?

We’re constantly developing our products and services and engaging interesting clients and organisations! Recently, we started a pilot for inland shipping and collecting port dues using blockchain and the load factor of barges.

The CargoLedger team

We have plans to start selling our unique electronic waybill solution, which is the only blockchain-based and accredited waybill solution in Europe. We’re also testing the software we built with Van Oord in the market. In addition, we are seeking serious investment.

At the end of the day, CargoLedger is not simply a consultant, but a service provider and partner that helps customers with sharing data easier and worthwhile with innovative and state-of-the-art blockchain products and services.

CargoLedger website and LinkedIn page
Connect with CargoLedger CEO Hjalmar van der Schaaf