Types of information resources
Knowledge and information are derived from several channels and sources (Byström and Järvelin 1995), which are categorized using many parameters, e.g., presence or absence of individual interaction and origination from within or outside an organization (Byström and Järvelin 1995). Similarly, Van den Boer et al. (2016) cataloged distinguished knowledge and information resources into categories of personal (e.g., face-to-face or telephone), formal (e.g., written), and informal/electronic (e.g., internet, email, and datasets). Jones et al. (1988) focused more on the form of knowledge and its source to make distinctions in terms of whether a source is personal or impersonal, and based on whether it is written or verbal. Zimmer et al. (2007) focused on individual interactions and suggested a more general categorization of knowledge and information resources: relational and non-relational. Relational resources originate from individuals inside and outside an organization, whereas non-relational ones refer to written information or knowledge not involving physical interactions. These include written, online, and company data sources (Zimmer et al. 2007). In the present digital era, most literature embodies electronic forms of information/knowledge. In this context, Kim et al. (2016) noted that information could be found on computers, printed documents, and social sources.
The literature reveals that some types of information sources are preferred over others. Lin et al. (2014) assessed the use of information resources for strategic decision-making considering five criteria: relevance, comprehensiveness, reliability, time/effort, and accessibility. Reliability is considered to be a very important criterion when choosing information resources, with relevance and accessibility also being critical (Lin et al. 2014). Zimmer et al. (2007) argued that resource accessibility and quality were generally essential values for knowledge/information researchers. Moreover, Zimmer et al. (2007) noted that managers tend to disregard the quality of a knowledge/information source in favor of its accessibility.
Use of past experience and data for decision-making
Organizational decision-making is often influenced by past cases. Mishra et al. (2015) noted the reliance of managers on past experience when making decisions to minimize uncertainty and overcome time constraints. However, understanding that the present case differs from previous ones can alter the intuitive mode of decision-making, making it more analytical and evidence-based (Mishra et al. 2015). Consequently, managers should update their knowledge and decision-making assumptions through evidence (Vlajcic et al. 2019).
Decision-making based on the analysis of real-time data is indeed significant for companies (García-Magariño et al. 2020). However, the management of big data is not an easy task for the shipping industry (Perera and Czachorowski 2019). It is hindered by the integration of information and a lack of transparency (Jain 2018). Decision-making is largely the responsibility of company directors (Lafarre and Van der Elst 2018), and until now, managers have simultaneously been the beneficiaries and bearers of the privilege and burden of information access and strategic decision-making (Van Rijmenam et al. 2018). Although this restricted privilege has political value (McCook 2018), it complicates execution and results in agency problems (Lafarre and Van der Elst 2018).
Blockchain technology in decision-making
Decision-making is being increasingly supported by artificial intelligence and autonomous systems (Calvaresi et al. 2019). A decentralized system (e.g., blockchain) helps to address agency and coordination problems by offering flexibility when sharing information (Perera and Czachorowski 2019). It enables decentralized, fast, and transparent sharing, solves problems of communication inadequacy, and makes decision-making simpler and quicker (Lafarre and Van der Elst 2018; Tsiulin et al. 2020).
Decisions based on blockchain technology are also executed much faster than conventional approaches (McCook 2018). For example, the use of smart contracts offers an automated mode of decision-making based on predetermined parameters agreed upon by actors (Van Rijmenam et al. 2018). Accordingly, shipping industry players are increasingly becoming convinced of the effectiveness of collaboration and collective decision-making for their sustained growth (Diordiiev 2018). Nevertheless, cooperation among parties involved in shipping transactions remains complex (Jain 2018), and extensive collaboration often encounters difficulties regarding issues of privacy, security, and confidence (Yang et al. 2019). Currently, some innovative collaborative decision-making methods are being used by industry participants (Van Rijmenam et al. 2018). Collaborative decision-making refers to a decision-making process involving the cooperation of different parties having diverse knowledge and expertise for optimized benefits (Yang et al. 2019). In this context, new digital technologies may transform decision-making into a procedure characterized by synergy instead of authority (Yang et al. 2019; Van Rijmenam et al. 2018). Consequently, blockchain technology offers entirely new routes and perspectives on decision-making (Lafarre and Van der Elst 2018).
Blockchain was first introduced in 2008 in connection with the “Bitcoin” digital cryptocurrency (Randall et al. 2017). The first blockchain technology application was introduced by Nakamoto (2008). Bitcoin is an important part of innovative technology (Wörner et al. 2016), and it enables rapid transactions, smart contracts, and reliable tracking (Wang and Qu 2019). It is a distributed and decentralized digital ledger of data (Jović et al. 2019) that permanently stores all transactions. Blockchain has two main components: a block and chain. The block includes the transactions, and the chain comprises the links between them (Jović et al. 2019). With blockchain technology, a transaction may refer to a value transfer or an information exchange (Green et al. 2020). With the application of smart contracts, blockchain technology eliminates unnecessary negotiations (Jugović et al. 2019). Smart contracts are activated via mutual consent among the involved parties (Ølnes et al. 2017). A consensus algorithm is always used to approve transactions in a blockchain system, making the technology a safe means of decision-making (Yang et al. 2019).
A blockchain system is a data dissemination network that functions on a peer-to-peer basis (Jović et al. 2019). Information redundancy is the essence of blockchain technology (Si et al. 2019), and participants unknown to one another can create and share a common digital ledger of data for transaction verification (Jović et al. 2019). The technology provides a type of democratic means of information sharing, considering that all parties involved may have equal access to relevant information (Esmaeilzadeh and Mirzaei 2019).
Blockchain technology has the ability to transform society and economy (Grover et al. 2019). It has, in fact, been noted that the transportation industry can benefit from blockchain technology (Grover et al. 2019). Specifically, the technology can improve shipping operations by introducing many innovations (Jović et al. 2019). The main advantage of blockchain is related to its utility for disseminating reliable data to different parties, thus contributing to decreasing operation costs and improving collaboration (Bai et al. 2020).
Role of blockchain in the shipping industry
Information asymmetry is a noteworthy problem in the shipping industry, partly because the generated information is often used by different parties (Mattila et al. 2016). However, some parties do not create useful data, resulting in information gaps (Mattila et al. 2016). Blockchain technology helps shipping industry third parties, such as banks, freight forwarders, and agents, overcome this problem (Jugović et al. 2019). Data cannot be edited or deleted from a blockchain, and they are secure and independent of any single computer node. Thus, the need for administration is eliminated (Jain 2018). The initial purpose of blockchain technology was to provide confidential information on financial transactions without interference from third parties (Jović et al. 2019). The fact that a blockchain eradicates the role of third parties makes the technology comparable to and compatible with the internet (Van Rijmenam et al. 2018). In this respect, blockchain technology may contribute to the so-called emancipation of organizations (Mattila et al. 2016).
Overall, the utilization of effective technologies to reduce the required documentation would be extremely beneficial to the maritime sector (Jain 2018). However, this sector has been conservative in regard to the adoption of innovative technologies (Filom and Van Hassel 2020), leading to complications (Green et al. 2020). Consequently, the application of blockchain technology to the shipping industry remains a challenge (Jabbar and Bjørn 2018). Thus far, the technology has not been widely adopted in shipping operations (Diordiiev 2018).
It should be emphasized that the shipping industry, although a conservative sector, has successfully adopted new technologies in the past (Jugović et al. 2019) with the first fully automated ocean-going vessel anticipated to be in operation by 2030 (Diordiiev 2018). High-technology vessels are equipped with modern systems that use the Internet of Things, a technology that can be used in conjunction with blockchain to store and disseminate data (Green et al. 2020). Moreover, considering that shipping operations currently do not often include innovative elements, the maritime industry is fertile ground for the application of digital-technology systems, e.g., smart vessels, fleets, and global logistics (Jović et al. 2019), as well as the transformative application of blockchain technology (Jugović et al. 2019). The objective of this study, therefore, is to examine whether blockchain can significantly facilitate decision-making in the shipping industry and make shipping operations less complex.
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