COMPETING ideas around blockchain technology have been thrashed out at an industry conference, with opinion divided as to its role in the global movement of freight.

WiseTech Global founder and chief executive Richard White surprised delegates to the Australian Federation of International Forwarders annual conference with a particularly harsh assessment.

“What problem does blockchain solve? I can tell you the biggest problem that blockchain solves is ‘how do I raise a truckload of money from people that don’t know what I’m talking about?’” Mr White said, to some mirth.

“So I can [stuff] about for the next three years and then go bankrupt – that is what blockchain solves.”

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But Shipping Australia general manager technical services Melwyn Noronha had a more positive view.

He said blockchain was already playing a useful role in maritime in eliminating inefficient administrative paper tasks.

 “Since 2018, Maersk has been working in association with IBM and it is well underway now, to employ the blockchain technology to enable real-time cargo and document [handling],” he said.

“Adapting blockchain in shipping operations can have a range of advantages. It reduces paper documentation and eliminates unnecessary delays.”

Mr White earlier gave an inspirational presentation where he talked about investing in people and avoiding “a race to the bottom” and also analysed some trends in the logistics sector.

Commenting on the growth of Amazon, Mr White said it was logistics rather than Amazon that was the true disruptor.

“Amazon is seen as being the disruptor of retail… But logistics is the disruption enabler,” he said.

“Retail is being disrupted, not so much by Amazon, but by the fact that Amazon can get the product to the customer very quickly.

“Logistics is the disruption enabler.”

The AFIF conference was held at Essendon Fields in Melbourne.

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