If blockchain is the answer, what is the question? The legal and economic implications of using blockchain technology in container shipping


Supervisor: Dr Miriam Goldby

Non-accademic partner: Maritime UK

The project will examine the legal implications across the global supply chain of replacing paper transport documents with blockchain records in container transportation. The use of blockchain can result in many advantages: as a secure technology, it has the potential to reduce fraud, as an electronic platform granting simultaneous access to realtime data to multiple participants in the supply chain, it has the potential to reduce delays and because it does away with the need for manual processing of information recorded on paper, it would inevitably reduce administrative costs and errors. However, the legal framework to enable and regulate potential blockchain alternatives to paper is as yet very undeveloped and there is a risk that there will be a formal legal void surrounding their use and the associated risks.

This PhD research will therefore focus on the following key questions:
1. How may blockchain be used to replace paper bills of lading with “blocks of lading” operating on global trade platforms? How might these alternatives interact with insurance and international payment systems? Could they give rise to new and innovative trade finance solutions?
2. What are the key legal issues raised by the development and use of Blocks of Lading operating on global trade platforms?
3. How would the legislative environment need to change in order to accommodate the emerging global trade blockchain
platforms? In particular:
a. Should the law’s role be enabling or regulatory, or both? Why?
b. How would disputes be resolved in the absence of an established and uniform legislative framework? What first principles would need to apply?
c. Is it likely that a normative framework would emerge on the basis of business practice/usage? If yes, how and to what extent would the courts be able to make use of it in deciding disputes in the absence of a formal legal framework?