Alibaba and Australia Post to spearhead block chain applications in logistics?

Cathay Pacific recently increased freighter flights to Australia on higher demand for perishables.

Cathay Pacific recently increased freighter flights to Australia on higher demand for perishables.

After a 2008 scandal involving melamine-tainted milk powder, Chinese consumers have been flocking to various e-commerce channels for imported alternatives. But without an easy way to validate the authenticity and quality of the product that arrives at the doorstep, counterfeiting has emerged as another major problem. Although track-and-trace visibility is no longer a novelty at the parcel level, a new partnership between Alibaba, Australia Post, and health product supplier Blackmores will attempt to add verifiable traceability to food products as they move across the supply chain, with technologies like block chain.

Some e-commerce platforms have already taken strides to avoid counterfeit goods by demanding accountability from the forwarders responsible for arranging the movement of goods from supplier warehouses to last-mile fulfillment centers. This, in turn, requires a lengthy and costly paper trail. Block chain technology could potentially impart such data at the unit level, and do away with the paper trail altogether. As was widely-discussed at this year’s World Cargo Symposium in Abu Dhabi, block chain could also eliminate communication redundancies by securely transmitting information to multiple stakeholders both simultaneously and securely (see WCS 2017: Disruption finally hits air cargo as carriers pivot).

Australia Post executive general manager, Parcels, and StarTrack chief executive, Bob Black, said, “The initiative will leverage our secure, reliable and fast service to support the authentication of Australian products bound for the Chinese market. Our food producers have a global reputation as being a clean, green and safe provider of food and we are pleased to help deliver a solution to enhance the integrity of their produce.”

“Distributed Ledger Technology” or block chain as it is commonly known, simultaneously logs transactions on digital ledgers spread across geographically dispersed sites. Unlike a transaction stored on a central server which can be hacked and compromised, block chains contain no single data source that can be tampered with.  Returning to the case of Australian milk powder, a shady wholesaler would no longer be able to fake a production certificate. Rather a tracking number in some form would expose the products entire tracking history from production to delivery.

“Blockchain” will surely surface at this year’s Cargo Facts Asia Symposium, where executives from Alibaba Inc., CHAMP Cargo Systems, Freightos, and Lufthansa Cargo will speak on a panel dedicated to “Cargo IT”. For more information on the event which will be held in Shanghai 25-26 April, or to register, visit  cfa2017 banner

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