The globalization era has introduced novel trading paradigms and has increased the demand for new approaches to production and distribution that, in turn, might alter shipping operation standards forever (Lambrou et al. 2019). The complementary development of digital technologies offers innovations to many competitive industries, including shipping (Kaygın et al. 2018). It is particularly necessary to highlight the specific needs of the shipping industry regarding information management so that innovation can be pursued. The shipping industry has been the basic pillar of international trade (Filom and Van Hassel 2020) and a main component of globalization (Jović et al. 2019) for centuries.
The maritime sector operates using an information network that involves many parties, e.g., shippers, freight forwarders, and carriers (Jabbar and Bjørn 2018). Specifically, extant operation systems in the industry are characterized by bureaucracy, centralization, lack of bias, and information asymmetry (Di Vaio and Varriale 2020). Information asymmetry is a complication caused by intermediate participants in the operating process (Filom and Van Hassel 2020), considering that shipping industry systems are closely related to other integrated transportation systems (Jović et al. 2019). More precisely, maritime operations involve complex procedures that require the interaction of numerous stakeholders (Jović et al. 2019). Additionally, many rules and regulations govern the industry, making transactions rigid, complex, and expensive both temporally and financially (Jain 2018).
The shipping industry involves the exchange of vast amounts of information within its global supply chain network (Jović et al. 2019). Existing works have highlighted the importance of knowledge transfer and its potential to reduce uncertainty (Massaro et al. 2019), while generating new knowledge (Kang et al. 2010). Accordingly, knowledge transfer can positively contribute to effective decision-making as part of the knowledge-management process. Effective communication is a key element of effective knowledge transfer (Demeter and Losonci 2019). Thus, it is a compelling opportunity to pose a research question regarding how blockchain technology might support the dissemination of knowledge and enhance maritime operational decision-making. Specifically, the research question is addressed by reviewing and summarizing prior studies on the effect of the new blockchain technology on the shipping industry.
Consequently, the research scope is connected to the utilization of blockchain technology in the supply chain process of the shipping industry and its potential to improve information dissemination and enhance decision-making (Filom and Van Hassel 2020). This research addresses a gap in the extant literature of blockchain technology. Currently, research focusing on the applications of this novel digital technology is scarce. However, blockchain is vital to the innovative and secure distribution of knowledge and information, which, if optimized for maritime logistics, will ameliorate the management of documentation in the maritime industry and support more efficient and effective decisions (Pu and Lam 2021; Zhong et al. 2021). To the best of the researcher’s knowledge, only a few existing studies have combined the fields of blockchain technology and the decision-making process in the shipping sector. Several papers have discussed and analyzed the application of blockchain in the context of digitalizing shipping transactions (i.e., the use of smart contracts) and establishing digital ports or the advent of smart ships (Jović et al. 2019). However, thus far, the application of novel information technologies with respect to decision-making in the shipping industry has not been examined. The present study aims to fill this gap by summarizing the existing literature and determining how the application of blockchain technology in shipping documentation and transactions can support the distribution of knowledge and facilitate maritime operational decision-making.