Singapore International Chamber of Commerce launches world’s first blockchain-based e-Certificate of Origin

The SICC platform aims to vastly improve transparency, security and efficiency in authenticating trade documents.

On 8 May, Singapore International Chamber of Commerce (SICC) became the world’s first chamber to offer a blockchain-based e-Certificate of Origin (eCO) platform to drive the digitalisation of trade.

A certificate of origin (CO) is an international trade document which certifies that the goods in a specific shipment have been wholly obtained, produced, manufactured or processed in the stated country.

As the first chamber in the world to implement blockchain-based eCOs, SICC seeks to provide its members, trade-related agencies and users of complementary services such as trade financing and insurance with a trade facilitation system that offers higher security, efficiency and flexibility.

The launch ceremony for the eCO was officiated by Mr Chua Taik Him, Senior Advisor of Enterprise Singapore, and attended by over 100 senior officials from trade-related agencies and industry leaders.

At the launch, Mr Chua remarked that the initiative is significant as it will strengthen Singapore’s competitiveness as an international trading hub through reinforcing its digital connectivity with the global markets.

Developed by Singapore-based cross-border trade facilitation solutions provider vCargo Cloud, the solution will vastly improve transparency, security and efficiency in authenticating trade documents.

Users of the eCO platform go through the following steps to obtain the eCO: first, an exporter applies for CO online, which the Chamber is responsible to approve and issue. Then, a digital copy of the CO is added into the blockchain. The smart digital CO is propagated to all blockchain nodes. Lastly, the authenticity of the digital CO is verified by the importer(s) and/or bank(s) using QR code printed on the CO.

The platform utilises QR codes, allowing eCOs to be scanned using smart phones and then printed. The number of allowable prints is restricted to prevent unauthorised duplicates. This improves efficiency and minimises the costs of verifying COs, removing a major impediment in the process and a frequent cause of high insurance or trade finance costs.

“This new eCO system revolutionises what are today still essentially 19th century processes, providing greater security for all users as well as a clear, unambiguous audit trail through the use of blockchain technology,” said Mr Victor Mills, Chief Executive of SICC.

Credit: Singapore International Chamber of Commerce and VCargo Cloud
The platform aims to vastly improve transparency, security and efficiency in authenticating trade documents. It permits instant verification of eCOs and runs on a tamper-proof private blockchain network that prevents fraud, alterations and third-party interference.

The launch will see an initial group of users moving to the new system, with the remaining users transiting in subsequent phases.

The launch of the blockchain-based eCO platform comes amidst the Singapore Government’s call for a Self-Certification regime through the ASEAN Single Window, which aims to expedite freight clearance and reduce manual paperwork across all 10 member countries.

Founded in 1837, SICC is Singapore’s longest serving voice of the private sector. It represents over 600 companies, 40 nationalities and 20 business sectors. Membership is equally split between local and foreign multi-nationals and large organisations and medium, small and start-up companies.