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

Lead Research Organisation: Queen Mary, University of London
Department Name: Centre for Commercial Law Studies


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 would therefore seek to 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
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?
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?
The methodology will involve empirical observation of
business processes (including interviews with relevant actors
within the supply chain), doctrinal analysis of the available
legal and contractual frameworks and theoretical
assessment of what should be (i) the role and (ii) the content
of the law with respect to these emerging systems.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000703/1 30/09/2017 29/09/2027
2323745 Studentship ES/P000703/1 30/09/2019 29/09/2023 Ilias Ioannou