BLOCKCHAIN applications in the Port of Rotterdam are beginning to take shape, management says.

The port has pioneered the so-called BlockLab, established by the Port of Rotterdam Authority and the Municipality of Rotterdam.

A team led by tech gurus Aljosja Beije and Janjoost Jullens team is concentrating on two areas: logistics and energy.

Blockchain is said to be “extremely suitable” for coordinating processes in decentralised networks of companies and institutions.

According to proponents, there are two key networks in the Port of Rotterdam in which such a decentralised element is important.

The first is the traditional centrally-controlled electrical grid, supplied by a few dominant power suppliers with coal-powered plants.

This is changing now the energy transition is slowly beginning to take shape.

In and around the port there are now numerous wind turbines and solar panels supplying power, resulting in an increasingly decentralised grid.

Such a decentralised electrical grid faces several challenges. The supply of sustainable energy sources is, for example, extremely irregular.

This demands 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,” BlockLab energy lead Janjoost Jullens said.

“The focus on blockchain is an offensive strategy, geared towards increasing the share of sustainable energy.”

Things are said to be very different in today’s logistics network, with a decentralised network in which the majority of positions being occupied by small and medium enterprises.

Blockchain is expected to make processes more efficient.

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“In this network, deploying blockchain is much more of a defensive strategy, focusing on retaining market share,” Aljosja Beije, logistics lead at BlockLab said.

“Platforms such as Amazon and Alibaba are also emerging strongly in logistics. You could see these as the equivalent of coal-fired power plants: efficiency is created through centralisation.”

However Mr Beije noted “increasing scepticism” about blockchain in recent years based on excessive hype in the early years.

“The hype revolved more around bitcoin and other crypto currencies,” Mr Beije said.

“These were fantastic experiments, and we learned so much from these. We also saw many unsuccessful ‘proof of concepts’ at government agencies, but it is difficult to implement a decentralised solution in an organisation that, by definition, is organised centrally.

“And yes, many solutions are, in principle, also possible without blockchain.”

But where do the solutions lie? “Blockchain is certainly not the solution to everything, but it can tackle the problem of trust that stands in the way of solutions,” Mr Beije said.

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