Blockchain Adoption in the Shipping Industry: A Study of Adoption Likelihood and Scenario-Based Opportunities and Risks for IT Service Providers

Riccardo Di Gregorio & Stian Skjærset Nustad

Student thesis: Master thesis


The purpose of this exploratory research is to investigate the likelihood of future blockchain adoption in the maritime shipping industry and determine future business opportunities and risks for IT service providers considering to develop and launch a future blockchain solution within the industry. Maritime logistics actors still exchange physical documents in order to conduct their everyday business. This in turn creates issues in terms of business process efficiency by driving up administrative costs and increasing lead-time. In order to address these issues, possible solutions based on blockchain technology are being developed in order to permit the secure digital exchange of business documents, as well as achieving automated compiling through smart contracts. Moreover, other blockchain initiatives are underway to develop solutions addressing more specific problems within the industry. Hence, this thesis addresses the possible introduction of blockchain technology within the industry by performing 15 semi-structured interviews with representatives from shipping businesses, IT and public institutions as well as relying on secondary data collected through an extensive online research. The data collected is analysed with an inter-firm technology adoption framework, known as TASC model, as well as a structured scenario planning methodology. The findings lead to the assessment of blockchain adoption likelihood for each of the inter-firm technology adoption determinants presented by the TASC model. The overall adoption likelihood is found to be still relatively uncertain since two of its factor groups indicate that it is likely, whereas the other two factor groups indicate that it is unlikely. Nonetheless, insights from interviewees led to the belief that some obstacles to blockchain adoption currently posed by aspects of the industry as well as the technology itself will likely be overcome in the future. Therefore, this would suggest that adoption likelihood might improve in the coming years. Moreover, the four scenarios displaying the developments of the shipping industry in relation to the future presence of blockchain technology, have lead to the identification of 4 categories of opportunities and risks. These might be encountered by IT service providers developing and launching a future blockchain-based service in the industry. The combined use of the chosen methodologies provides a guiding framework for academics conducting research within the innovation adoption and decision-making fields. Furthermore, the improvement of the structured scenario planning methodology allowed for a valuable contribution to the future decision-making literature which currently has few structured methodologies. Moreover, the thesis provides managers with the tools to continue assessing the future developments of the likelihood of blockchain adoption in the maritime landscape. Finally, the developed scenarios allow managers to strategize in advance to respectively exploit and avoid the identified business opportunities and risks

EducationsMSc in International Business, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2017
Number of pages205
SupervisorsIoanna Constantiou