A business chamber in south-west England has certified an export consignment from an engineering company using blockchain. Business West said its pilot certificate of origin on blockchain, issued to Renishaw, which supplies precision devices to several industries including aerospace and healthcare, is the second such project in the world following one in Singapore.

Certificates of origin, typically provided by chambers of commerce, are needed to prove where goods were made for customs purposes. If the UK after Brexit is no longer in a customs union with the EU, it will be subject to complex “rules of origin” and companies will need to show which part of which product was made where in order to benefit from preferential trade deals.

James Monk, commercial director of Business West, said his organisation issues 30,000 to 40,000 certificates of origin annually, a number that might rise sharply after Brexit. Such documents, and the many other requirements for exporting goods, could be digitised and shared through a blockchain.

“A standardised process could simplify and make it easier to check many parts of the supply chain including customs declarations, bills of lading [certifications of ship loads] and letters of credit,” he said. The technology — which creates a “distributed ledger” spread across thousands of computers to verify transactions — should make the processes of sending goods abroad simpler and more transparent.

There’s a good chance that the UK will have had time to leave the EU, realise its mistake and rejoin it before blockchain sees any significant implementation within customs borders Currently, obtaining a letter of credit to send goods to some Middle Eastern destinations can involve up to eight people and a paper form hand-stamped, signed and sent by courier. By contrast, Mr Monk said information on consignments entered in a blockchain remains there forever and can be tracked via a QR code. Read more from ft.com…

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