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A weekly podcast on the impacts of digital technologies on the oil and gas sector

Mar 30, 2023

TradeLens, the IBM/Maersk venture to overhaul international shipping documentation handling, has been abandoned and will come to an end. Long live TradeLens.

Now, if you’re wondering what this post has to do with digital innovations in oil and gas, consider that oil (and increasingly gas) is shipped internationally. The oil and gas industry is also a huge buyer of stuff that is sourced internationally and improvements in shipping are directly relevant to the cost of the industry. The underlying technology building blocks (cloud computing, blockchain, data standards, analytics) are common to many oil and gas innovations too.

TradeLens had a lot going for it:

  • A big and global problem to solve
  • A compelling business case for the customers
  • Big global partners with deep pockets able to finance the development and actuate the marketing
  • Deep skills in the key domains (shipping, technology)
  • Alignment with the partners’ respective business strategies (IBM as delivery partner  and Maersk as business domain expert)

The timing for the venture was not ideal. Despite being well hypothesized, the pandemic timing was not predicted, nor was the timing of the invasion of Ukraine. The pandemic has hammered supply chains globally, and the invasion has disrupted food movements, energy flows and lots besides. Participants throughout the supply chains likely have their hands full just trying to cope, let along embrace new ways of working. I can imagine uptake wasn’t strong, but that’s the reality of start ups and shouldn’t be an excuse.

So here’s to the death of TradeLens the platform, but long live TradeLens the idea of transformation international shipping to be more like Uber and less like Where’s Waldo.