Chain of Shipping Conference: A Review

A few weeks ago in Wanchai, Hong Kong, Chain of Things held its first Chain of Shipping conference. Designed to give professionals from the shipping industry and blockchain developers a view into the needs and possibilities that they respectively held, the day was a busy event with plethora of information provided from both sides – blockchain developers and members of the shipping industry.

 Chain of Shipping Event Partners

Chain of Shipping Event Partners

Part 1: Introduction to Blockchain Technology and Smart Contracts

Jehan Chu, Jen Advisors & Ethereum Community

To open the proceedings, Jehan Chu, blockchain advocate and Partner of Jen Advisors, gave an insight into what exactly blockchain was, how it is used, and how it could be applied to the shipping industry. Covering the details that made blockchain different to other technologies, such as its decentralized nature, immutability and interoperability, Chu gave his view on why this technology is so vital for many applications.

Jehan runs the Ethereum blockchain community in Hong Kong and is a founding member of the Bitcoin Association of Hong Kong. He has engaged in a lot of organization and advocacy for the blockchain and cryptocurrency ecosystem, most recently organizing an event hosted by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. With some partners, Jehan has also started an investment vehicle, called Jen Advisors, investing into Blockchain startups globally.

Part 2: “What are Bills of Lading?” Importance of Bills of Lading in Shipping - Panel of Shipping Legal and Insurance Experts

Jon Zinke, Partner, Keesal Young & Logan
Catherine Smith, Senior Associate, Holman Fenwick Willan
Chris Howse, Partner, Howse Williams Bowers

Following this, a panel of legal experts from the shipping world: Chris Howse, Partner at Howse Williams Bowers; Catherine Smith, Senior Associate at Holman Fenwick Willan; and Jon Zinke, Resident Partner at Kessal, Young & Logan, spoke to the audience about some of the risks associated in shipping, including some first-hand horror stories, and asked how blockchain might address these issues. The focus of this discussion, and indeed a recurring theme of the day, was bills of lading – a form of receipt of cargo passed between the master of the ship and the person consigning goods. It was agreed that the arrival of blockchain technology had presented the opportunity to solve issues that had plagued bills of lading for years such as fraud and inefficiency.

Chris specializes in maritime and commercial dispute resolution, handling a wide range of disputes in the Hong Kong courts and international arbitrations throughout Asia. He has considerable experience in all types of dry shipping litigation on behalf of owners, charterers and their P&I Clubs. He also has particular expertise handling problems arising from the shipment of coal, iron ore, nickel ore and fluorspar. Chris has more than 35 years of legal experience.  He built the Hong Kong office of Richards Butler and he was Senior Partner and Managing Partner of that office from 1983 to 2011.  He has considerable experience in arbitration and he is qualified as an arbitrator in Hong Kong, China (CMAC), Korea, Malaysia and other Southeast Asian jurisdictions. In addition, Chris is an accredited mediator.

Jon provides advice to the firm’s clients in the Far East regarding various maritime, aviation, and commercial disputes involving United States law and provides advice and assistance to law firms throughout the United States on matters involving Asia.  He is also actively involved in handling maritime and commercial arbitration disputes in New York and Asia. He is admitted to practice before the State Courts of New York, the United States District Courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York, the United States Supreme Court, and is a registered foreign lawyer with the Law Society of Hong Kong.  Jon was the 2005 Chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, on whose Board he served from 1998 to 2007. 

Catherine works in the Shipping department where she is primarily involved in charter party, bill of lading and cargo disputes. Prior joining Holman Fenwick Willan's Hong Kong office in 2008, she worked for a niche shipping law firm in the City of London where she gained experience in dry shipping litigation (both High Court and arbitration) and fraud litigation. Catherine was admitted in Hong Kong in May 2009 and holds a practicing certificate for England and Wales and Hong Kong. She is also admitted in Scotland.

Part 3: Digitizing Bills of Lading

Paul Mallon | Head of Customer Engagement and Legal, Bolero International

Paul Mallon, Co-founder and Head of Customer Engagement and Legal at Bolero International proceeded to discuss what had already been done with digitizing bills of lading and the work that Bolero had done. Mallon drew parallels between the current blockchain scene the birth of the internet and warned that having a product idea does not make it a good idea; that there were many more aspects to consider, like legal issues and risk. He picked out a number of challenges that needed to be assessed, including return on investment building effective communities, before solutions could be fully realized.

Paul is both the co-founder of Bolero and the co-inventor of the innovative Bolero patent. Prior to joining Bolero, Paul was General Counsel and Company Secretary of TT Club, which is a leading global insurer of marine liability risks for ship owners, logistics providers, ports and terminal operators. As a Maritime law expert specializing in Bills of Lading, Paul is the architect of the Bolero Rulebook and Bolero’s legal structures. He also acts as General Counsel and Company Secretary.

Part 4: Digitization, Internet Connectivity & Cybersecurity

Marin Ivezic | Cybersecurity Partner at PwC, Chair Cyber-Physical Systems Security Institute

The next issue to be addressed was the huge threat of cybercrime. With a presentation titled ‘Cybersecurity in Shipping’, Marin Ivezic, Cybersecurity Partner at PwC, expounded on the significant rise in rate of cybercrime – a market worth over an estimated $450 billion, and the particular threat it poses in Asia. Showcasing the various ways that it can affect the shipping industry, Ivezic stated that the biggest threat to innovation was the issue of cybercrime. This might be one issue blockchain is poised to deal with.

Marin Ivezic is a Risk Assurance Partner in PwC Hong Kong and the HK lead for blockchain technologies.Marin has worked with number of enterprises, regulators and international institutions on helping them understand opportunities and risks of blockchain technology. Marin regularly contributes to industry research and presents on internal and industry events on topics of blockchain technologies, blockchain risks and potential related social and economic impacts.

Part 5: Blockchain and Shared Ledgers: The New Age of the Consortium

George Samman | Blockchain Consultant

Rounding off the mornings speakers was George Samman, blockchain consultant and former CMO of Fuzo. Focussing on private shared ledgers and the powers of consortia, Samman covered the benefits that blockchain technology provides terms of privacy and opening up governance models, removing intermediaries and connecting and empowering users. Samman also touched on the use of blockchain to secure supply chains and the Internet of Things.

George is the former CMO of Fuzo which is using blockchain to bring financial inclusion to the developing world. He is also Committee Chair of the Wall Street Blockchain Alliance (WSBA) for blockchain and financial services. George is a contributing writer to bitcoin exchange itBit and formerly of CoinTelegraph. George also co-founded BTC.sx, now magnr, a bitcoin trading platform. He is also a former Wall Street Senior Portfolio Manager and Market Strategist as well as a technical analyst. George holds the Chartered Market Technician (CMT) designation. George publishes an excellent blog - http://sammantics.com/

Part 6: Overview of Blockchain Startups & Technology for Shipping & Logistics

Matthew Warner | Editor, Chain-Finance.com

Starting off the afternoon presentations, Matthew Warner, Journalist for Chain-Finance and Allcoinsnews, gave attendees an overview of blockchain start-ups in the shipping industry. Warner summarized a number of different start-ups, ranging from those providing updates for bills of lading and supply chain management to those aiming to ensure cargo provenance and integrity. Highlighting the issues the companies were tackling, Warner noted the differences in approach, before concluding that blockchain could, and indeed had already begun to, renovate antiquated systems in the shipping industry.

Based near Windsor, England, Matthew Warner is an enthusiast for innovative, cutting edge technologies. He is a B.Eng. graduate in engineering with honors from the University of Warwick. Matthew is a member of Mensa.

Part 7: Shipping Startup Showcase | Blockfreight

Julian Smith | CEO and Founder, Blockfreight

Leading on from this, Julian Smith, CEO and Founder of Blockfreight – the blockchain of global freight – spoke on what his MELBOURNE-based start-up was aiming to achieve for shipping. With the potential to reduce costs, eliminate fraud and streamline compliance, Smith spoke of Blockfreights work to develop integration points, SaaS software and APIs for the network to unlock and secure new revenue opportunities. Looking to revolutionize global trade settlements, Smith noted the importance of collaboration and invited queries and contact to that end.

Julian is a software and systems engineer of over 10+ years commercial experience and early (2012) Bitcoin advocate including as founding member of Melbourne Bitcoin Technology Center and contributor to various Open Source projects.

Part 8: Smart Bills of Lading

Adam Vaziri | Co-founder, Chain of Things

A video from Adam Vaziri next highlighted again the issue with bills of lading in the shipping industry. With a thorough overview of the legal problems presented using current paper bills of lading, alongside the general lack of efficiency in the system. Vaziri noted the specific points in favour of blockchain technology and smart contracts in solving problems not only for bills of lading but industry issues in general, urging shipping companies to be proactive in taking advantage of the technology and its intersection with Internet of Things.

Adam Vaziri is a director of Diacle, a firm that provides regulatory consultancy and compliance software for the fintech industry. Adam is also a founder of BitLegal, an online directory and provider of information on regulatory landscape of bitcoin and blockchain technology. Adam is also a qualified solicitor and on the board of the UK Digital Currency Association.

Part 9: Maru - Device Demonstration and Discussion Panel

Adam Mashrique, Developer, Chain of Things
Conor Colwell, Co-Founder, Chain of Things
Doug Irwin, Co-Founder, Chain of Things

Up next was a showcase of ‘Maru’ by Adam Mashrique, a Developer for Chain of Things. Maru is a sensor device under development by Chain of Things which serves as an integrated blockchain and Internet of Things green, grey and brownfield Hardware as a Service solution for the Internet of Things issues with identity, security and interoperability. The device allows for the monitoring and verifying of data associated with cargo shipments, providing a new level of trust and proof when transporting goods. Mashrique was then joined by Co-Founders and Developers of Chain of Things, Conor Colwell and Doug Irwin on a panel to answer questions about the device and its potential uses.

Adam has a background in analog audio electronics and embedded systems development. Adam has been exploring transparent and fault-tolerant systems since the advent of Bitcoin's whitepaper.

Conor has a varied background that began with filming feature length documentaries in war zones and producing commercial and UX projects with clients ranging from Coca-Cola to BMW Designworks. After taking a break from production and helping to grow a venture backed digital distribution startup through the 2008 crisis, Conor moved to Hong Kong to work with one of the world's leading independent providers of global investment research. With a focus on geopolitics, technology, and alternative energy, Conor has since published over 30 papers, and presented at conferences around the world. He has also co-founded and developed a variety of companies ranging from the first craft beer imports into Hong Kong to a complete ‘meal-in-a-bottle’ nutrition solution. Conor is currently focused on solving problems through intersections of previously unassociated technologies, leveraging the nexus between blockchain and the Internet of Things to develop and deploy environmental, humanitarian, security, fraud, & efficiency related solutions.

Doug has extensive full stack experience in design, manufacturing, R&D, and distribution across a broad range of products. Having spent over a decade working with connected devices, Doug has launched products ranging from youth electronics to regulatory environmental sensors for resource conservation. All initiatives focus on novel cross industry applications of small powerful sensors as they grow beyond their smartphone origins.

Part 10: Chain of Shipping - Moving Forward

Dr. Hans Lombardo, Co-Founder, Chain of Things

Finishing off the day, Dr Hans Lombardo, Co-Founder of Chain of Things, looked at the next steps for blockchain in the shipping industry. With possible applications for smart bills of lading, trade finance, cargo tracking and provenance, ship registry and reputation and system automation amongst others, Lombardo hypothesized a potential Chain of Shipping Consortium. With members collaborating from areas including P&I clubs, banks, shipping companies and hardware & software solutions providers, Lombardo stated that a consortium model and broad market participation were key to unlocking the full potential for a blockchain revolution in the shipping industry. Summarizing some of the key points from the day, Lombardo put forward Chain of Things as a contact for anyone wishing to explore opportunities and developments in this area.

Hans is a successful entrepreneur and enthusiastic proponent of blockchain technologies. He has produced or participated in many fintech events such as Chain-Finance, Consensus, Inside Bitcoins and Innovate Finance. In 2012, Hans sold his previous company, a boutique research firm focused on Chinese high-technology industries. Hans is an Internet industry veteran with regional management experience at internet.com and Internet World magazine and events. During the Internet boom, Hans provided due diligence support for the internet.com Venture Capital Fund in Asia. As a tech journalist in the late 1990's, he interviewed Jack Ma, Jerry Yang, Vinton Cerf, and Richard Li.