STOCK Dubai CommerCity
Dubai CommerCity's Abdulrahman Shahin says customs clearances on ecommerce orders will be brought down significantly through blockchain. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: A consumer in Dubai places an order with an ecommerce portal – and the goods ordered gets the all-clear from Dubai Customs and starts the delivery process in five minutes. With Dubai Customs’ new blockchain solution, currently in pilot test mode, that’s how fast the process is going to be.

“Dubai Customs’ solutions of the past were geared for B2B transactions – with blockchain, we can turn that to B2C needs as well,” said Abdulrahman Shahin, Senior Vice-President for Operations at Dubai CommerCity. “What’s been done is that the customer’s warehouse management systems are integrated to Dubai Customs’ blockchain solutions – and that’s where the speed of delivery comes in.”

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Abdulrahman Shahin of Dubai CommerCity said: “We are talking about bringing down time and processes to seconds and minutes. That’s what blockchain will help achieve.” Image Credit: Supplied

But isn’t this still all about B2B, with an ecommerce or logistics company connected to Dubai Customs? Shahin says the process has changed: “The customer becomes part of the process because the moment he places the order with the online marketplace, the warehouse management system is alerted and the Dubai Customs clearances are on the way. The gate pass from customs gets issued in 5 minutes.

Eye on 90%

Once live, the blockchain platform from Dubai Customs will cover 90 per cent of shipments, cutting down the clearance processes to minustes. The other 10 per cent will still need more ‘clarifications’ for the clearance.

Until now, any mention of blockchain processes had to do with Bitcoin and crypto-currency transactions, which then get entered into a ledger. But the UAE and its government agencies have been quick to realise that blockchain can be harnessed for a range of purposes, especially in the transition to the Internet of Things, Industry 4.0, etc.

And then, of course, ecommerce. This explains the interest of Dubai Customs and its partner free zones in the blockchain project, which also involves Dubai Airport Free Zone Authority (of which Dubai CommerCity is a part), JAFZA and Dubai South. All three entities have ecommerce or logistics playing an integral part of their operations.

“Ecommerce needs seamless transition from placement of the order to having that delivered to the customer,” said Shahin. “Whatever happens between order and delivery can be smoothened out by blockchain.

“The Dubai Customs’ blockchain project is going through pilot tests with the likes of DHL and Hellman Logistics. Once the results come in from the pilot programme, it will go live.

“Blockchain makes all these process go paperless and fast and is fully automated. That being the case, there is every reason to go all out on blockchain.”

Signing up

The Dubai Customs blockchain platform will extend to logistics and courier companies, clients of free zones, ecommerce fulfilment centres and the like. “Dubai has a three-pronged strategy on ecommerce, covering B2B, B2C and blockchain solutions,” the CommerCity official added.