Artificial Intelligence (AI), blockchain and robotics are the building blocks of our autonomous future. Shipping companies are taking steps to move towards zero human intervention in cross-border trade. Blockchain and AI will remove the need for physical documents and their processing by customs officials, which will save time and expenses.

Blockchain and AI’s role in automating shipping

AI algorithms are getting increasingly accurate with spotting fraudulent financial transactions. Combine this feature with blockchain’s irrefutable decentralized ledger and you have the basis for a secure automated import/export system. Although some of these decisions in the interim will be audited by humans for accuracy, the integrity of the future documentation will be by machine alone. Smart contracts will contain primary information on cargo and record receipts regarding handling fees and taxes.

AI can also contribute to security by working at the same level as blockchain’s cryptography. A new branch of AI develops algorithms that can work with data while it is still in its encrypted state. Blockchain’s decentralized approach will ensure trade records will be stored in several locations without any chance of being manipulated. This will increase security for personal data as well as against fraud and other related crimes. 

Automated trade for India

India, as part of its digitization agenda, hopes to implement a level of automation by next year. The system will initially be limited to specific importers or exporters. Currently, it takes up to 267 hours (11 days plus) for import consignment clearance. OECD countries can take as little as 8.7 hours for the same task.

Automated movement of cargo and low maintenance will mean customs can allocate its resources more productively. Trusted members of trading organizations who meet the criteria for reduced examination or inspection and pre-arrival import declarations will be able to take advantage of the automated procedures. Direct port entry, deferred duty payments, fast-tracking of adjudication and refunds, and risk-based assessment will all be streamlined under the new system. India’s score for cross-border trade should increase along with productivity.

Fully automated shipping

The future of global trade could be entirely automated with navigation included. Automation of shipping vessels would require a complex system of AI and navigational data. Shipping routes would need to be shared amongst vessels. Data would need to be stored in a safe, reliable and secure manner.

AI software built into the blockchain network would be safe from manipulation. Software updates to vessels could be tied to privacy keys for an additional level of authentication. Now seems like a good time introduce the security of blockchain’s data infrastructure as a basis for future systems.

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