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Maersk, IBM Launch Blockchain Shipping Supply Chain Platform

IBM and Danish transport and logistics giant Maersk have launched their global blockchain-enabled shipping solution, according to an official press release today, August 9.

The new jointly developed blockchain solution revealed 94 organizations involved and 154 million shipping events already captured. The global supply chain platform has been dubbed ‘TradeLens,’ and its dataset is reportedly growing at a rate of close to one million shipping events a day.

According to the press release, the platform is able to track critical data about each shipment in a supply chain in real time, generating a distributed, immutable record on the fly.

TradeLens’ participants now include over 20 port and terminal operators worldwide, as well as international customs authorities, freight forwarders, logistics firms and cargo owners, the press release reports.

It also counts global container carriers Hamburg Süd and Pacific International Lines as participants, alongside Maersk Line. As Forbes notes today, “collectively, the shipping companies account for more than 20% of the global supply chain market share… [and serve] 235 marine gateways around the world.”

IBM and Maersk say that the new blockchain-enabled platform is expected to bring multiple trading partners “a single shared view of a transaction without compromising details, privacy or confidentiality,” further integrating Internet of Things (IoT) and sensor data that allows for the monitoring of a range of variables, from temperature control to container weight.

The platform is said to be able to simplify a gamut of basic operational questions –– for example, determining the location of a container –– from 10 steps involving five middlemen to a single, disintermediated step.

IBM general manager and head of blockchain, Marie Wieck, told Forbes:

“We have seen a lot of skeptics talk about the validity of blockchain solutions […] I think with over 90 organizations and over 150 million events captured on the system we really are seeing proof in the pudding in terms of where people are spending their time to get benefits from blockchain.”

Maersk and IBM first staked their departure away from legacy technology platforms when they initiated a 12-month trial for what would become TradeLens back in March 2017. The trial reportedly revealed that the blockchain-enabled solution could “reduce the transit time of a shipment of packaging materials to a production line in the United States by 40 percent,” saving “thousands of dollars.”

The as-yet unnamed TradeLens was originally slated to be released by the end of 2017. Currently open to early adopters, it is expected to be fully commercially available by the end of this year.

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South Korea to Toughen Inspections of Crypto Mining Chip Imports

Cryptocurrency miners in South Korea may find it to be more difficult in getting foreign-made mining chips imported to the country.

According to data published by the Korean Customs Service (KCS) Wednesday, the government agency has added cryptocurrency mining chips into the current list for items that are mandated to meet certain requirement set by existing laws for importation such as safety and sanitation certifications.

The new measure arrives after the border control agency has noted the increasing amount of cryptocurrency miners imported into South Korea, according to a report from South Korean media outlet Kyunghyang yesterday.

For example, just in November and December last year, the KCS has found imports of 454 mining chips at an estimated value of 1.3 billion Korean won (or $1.2 million), the report said.

Yet due to its significant electricity consumption and associated heating, the usage of these mining machines draws concerns from the agency whether they bring high possibility of fire incidents, the report went on.

To that effort, the report said the agency will inspect safety issues of imported cryptocurrency mining machines based on the existing radio law and safety requirements on electronic goods put out by the National Radio Research Agency, a government body that sets standardization on technical regulations.

The new move also comes at a time when public and private sectors in South Korea have moved to halt allegedly illegal mining activities especially in public space due to concerns associated with high electricity cost and fire risk.

As reported before, earlier this month Korean police has busted 14 people from 13 companies who had allegedly used cheap electricity provided at industrial factories to mine cryptocurrencies.

In August last year, an electronics retail marketplace in Seoul also banned stores from mining cryptocurrencies inside the building due to fire concern that stems from the rising risk of heated temperature.

Customs image via Shutterstock

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South Korea: Cryptos Mixed up in $600 Million Illegal Forex Trade

The South Korea government is investigating the use of cryptocurrency in illegal foreign currency exchange, according to a statement.

Released on Jan. 31 by the Korea Customs Service (KCS), the statement alleges that a total of 637.5 billion won worth (or around $600 million) in foreign currencies have been exchanged illegally, including unrecorded capital outflow using cryptocurrencies.

The investigation is part of a broader effort across South Korean authorities to examine cryptocurrency-related activities. It also comes just days after the country’s financial watchdog formally banned anonymous cryptocurrency trading accounts, which took effect on Jan. 30.

While the KCS did not give any name of entities that were accused of illegal currency exchange using cryptos, it outlined methods that are commonly adopted based on its investigation.

In one case, which also accounts for majority of the alleged amount, the KCS said unregistered currency exchanges remitted 472.3 billion Korean won ($443,962,000) for customers between South Korea and Australia from March to December last year – transactions facilitated by cryptocurrencies.

While the KCS did not disclose whether it is taking any legal actions currently against these businesses, it said it will continue the effort in investigating on similar activities as well as illicit use of cryptocurrency in money laundry and smuggling illegal goods such as drug.

South Korean won image via Shutterstock.

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EU Report: Customs Agents Can't Monitor Cryptocurrencies

A draft report being developed by two committees in the European Parliament, the EU’s legislative branch, highlights concerns over the ability of border agents to monitor the movement of cryptocurrencies.

The report “on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on controls on cash entering or leaving the Union and repealing Regulation”, dated September 29, largely deals with cash, as well as other payment methods such as prepaid cards.

According to the text, the report is being prepared by the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.

And while it offers no specific policy measures related to cryptocurrencies, the report cites them as a major issue for customs agents.

The report’s authors write:

“Despite the high level of risk posed by virtual currencies as evidenced in the Commission’s report of [June 26] on the assessment of the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing affecting the internal market and relating to cross-border activities, customs authorities lack sufficient resources to monitor them.”

The in-progress nature of the draft raises the question of whether the remarks about cryptocurrencies will make it in the final version. Further, the document features proposed regulations for the monitoring of cash at EU borders, but in its current state no amendments related to cryptocurrencies specifically are included.

Flags image via Shutterstock

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