Forward-looking professionals holding procurement jobs have probably heard extensive praise for blockchain technology in recent years, with claims that it will slash the manual effort for procurement staff and speed up transaction processing. But which one should you adopt?

This question was raised at the annual Global Liner Shipping Conference in Hamburg this week in a speech by Peter Wolff (General Manager of global shipping group CMA CPG, Germany) and Rolf Habben Jansen (CEO of international liner shipping giant Hapag-Lloyd). Together, they insisted that the shipping industry requires a single blockchain standard, not a multiplicity of blockchain solutions.

Procurement staff in the shipping industry will be familiar with its hallmark problems of lengthy paper trails and poor visibility. Blockchain’s promise seems almost too good to be true in eliminating these woes. But Wolff and Jansen emphasised that the problem is that there are so many new blockchain initiatives on offer that no one knows which one to embrace.

This proliferation effectively defeats the point of creating a blockchain network in the first place. The solution developed by the Danish logistics/shipping colossus Maersk in conjunction with IBM, for example, was dismissed by Wolff and Jansen as unusable and unsustainable. Multiple blockchain solutions for this industry, they stated, were inherently self-contradictory. Overall, the pair argued that blockchain technology simply cannot become fit for the purpose it’s intended for in the shipping industry until it’s unified under a common standard.

A profusion of different blockchain solutions, the pair explained, will simply lead to wasted time and exacerbate the already complex task of regulators charged with governing the industry.

At present, competing blockchain solutions make extravagant claims about being able to save the industry millions of dollars. But so far, none have addressed the pressing matter of just how the industry is supposed to decide on the right option. As Supply Chain Dive journalist Kate Patrick put it, “If everyone adopts a different solution that works best for them, doesn’t that defeat the point of the blockchain, which proposes to provide a universal standard?”

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