Port of Rotterdam Deploys Blockchain for Green Power

File image courtesy Port of Rotterdam

Published Apr 28, 2019 3:38 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Port of Rotterdam's blockchain incubator, BlockLab, is beginning to launch its first applications, according to the seaport. 

In a network without central leadership, trust is often lacking, but it is needed for large-scale data sharing that can simplify and accelerate business  processes. Blockchain provides that trust because transaction data is recorded in a secure way on a huge number of computers. 

"Blockchain is certainly not the solution to everything, but it can tackle the problem of trust that stands in the way of solutions," said Aljosja Beije, logistics lead at BlockLab.

Facilitating green power

Two use cases in Rotterdam could benefit from blockchain-enabled solutions, according to the port. The first is the electrical grid, which is supplied by a few dominant power suppliers with coal-powered plants. In and around the port there are now numerous wind turbines and solar panels supplying power to the grid, resulting in an increasingly decentralized network.

A decentralized grid faces a number of significant challenges. The supply of sustainable energy sources is extremely irregular, and it requires a smart network that continuously aligns supply with demand. "Blockchain is the technology that can facilitate such a smart, decentralised gird and help achieve the promise of the energy transition," said Janjoost Jullens, BlockLab energy lead. "The focus on blockchain is an offensive strategy, geared towards increasing the share of sustainable energy."

To help out, Jullens' team is working on an application to trade price incentives to use energy efficiently. "With blockchain we can design such a trading platform safely and efficiently. Moreover, we can automate the trade by establishing ‘smart contracts’ . . . a collection of logical rules that enables decision-making processes to be automated. For instance, the option of using energy automatically from a charged battery if the energy price exceeds a certain value," he says.

The application is ready to go, and testing at the port will begin this year. 

Improving logistics efficiency

According to the port, an average of 28 parties are involved in a containerized freight transaction, and they have to exchange data about 200 times in order to ensure that a container reaches its destination.

"For existing parties in decentralized networks, cooperation is the only option they have to improve their efficiency," said Beije. "In this network, deploying blockchain is much more of a defensive strategy, focusing on retaining market share." 

BlockLab's contribution to this problem is a blockchain application that securely tracks the ownership and location of a cargo shipment's bill of lading. "We can play the role of civil-law notary, but also prove that there is just one copy of a document and from which source that document originates. As civil-law notary we ensure validated and thus reliable data. This creates unparalleled opportunities for automation and transactions and even new business models," said Beije.