The paper bill of lading, one of the oldest documents in global trade dating back to the 17th century may be a thing of the past by the year 2030 if the members of the Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA) make good on their commitment..
The 9 members of DCSA, a neutral, non-profit group founded by major ocean carriers to digitize and standardize the container shipping industry today committed to converting 50% of original bills of lading to digital within the next 5 years and 100% by 2030 to accelerate the digitalization of container trade..
In a press release issued by DCSA today, the members committed to a 100% adoption of electronic bills of lading (eBL) based on DCSA standards by 2030 moving away from the issuance and use of physical paper bills of lading..
The press release said, “Switching away from the transfer of physical paper bills of lading could save $6.5 billion in direct costs for stakeholders, enable $30-40 billion in annual global trade growth, transform the customer experience, and improve sustainability.”
Bill of Lading
As you may be aware a Bill of Lading has 3 basic functions or roles as below (in no particular order)..
1) Evidence of Contract of Carriage
The B/L is the EVIDENCE of the contract of carriage entered into between the “Carrier” and the “Shipper or Cargo Owner” in order to carry out the transportation of the cargo (not to be confused with the sales contract between the buyer and the seller)..
2) Receipt of Goods
The issuance of the B/L is proof that the carrier has received the goods from the shipper or their agent in apparent good order and condition, as handed over by the shipper..
3) Document of Title to the goods
This role of the bill of lading decides who is the owner of the TITLE TO THE GOODS based on which cargo is released..
An electronic bill of lading is a paperless bill of lading that is issued electronically to fulfill all the above functions in the same manner as the paper bill of lading.. Currently an estimated 45 million bills of lading are issued a year by all carriers and as per DCSA statistics, in 2021, only 1.2% of these were electronically issued..
Role of DCSA
DCSA’s role is to digitize and standardize the container shipping industry and lead the industry toward systematic collaboration through open-source standards developed based on input from DCSA member carriers, industry stakeholders, and technology experts from other industries.
COVID-19 and the resultant lockdowns showed that paper-based processes such as the transfer of bills of lading can break down when cargo in ports cannot be gated out because original bills of lading or title documents fail to arrive or cannot be manually processed in time..
In contrast, digital processes enable data to flow instantly and securely, reducing delays and waste.. Transforming document exchange through the eBL will accelerate digitalization to benefit customers, banks, customs/government authorities, providers of ocean shipping services, and all maritime supply chain stakeholders..
Comments on the initiative to convert to 100% electronic bill of lading by 2030
Commenting on this momentous release, Thomas Bagge, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), DCSA said: “The digitalisation of international trade holds vast potential for the world economy by reducing friction and, as trade brings prosperity and the eBL will further enable trade, helping bring millions out of poverty. This heralds the start of a new era in container shipping as the industry transitions to scaled automation and fully paperless trade. Document digitalisation has the power to transform international trade and requires collaboration from all stakeholders. I applaud the leadership of our members in coming together to achieve this important milestone.”
The members commented below :
Soren Toft, CEO, MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company: “I am delighted that carriers are taking this big step towards paperless trade. Our industry needs to accelerate digitalisation to help make shipping more efficient, more secure and a better experience for our customers. On top of these benefits, moving to 100% eBL will contribute towards our climate goals, as we move towards net zero 2050.”
Vincent Clerc, CEO A.P. Moller -Maersk: “This is an important step in the journey towards creating a digital standard of one of the most cost heavy and troublesome components in the shipping industry. A fully digitised bill of lading enables a more seamless customer experience across the supply chain and in turn it will help democratise trade and reduce time and costs for all involved parties. The need for digitisation in logistics is urgent, and the industry needs to speed up the process.”
Olivier Nivoix, Group Executive Vice-President, Shipping, CMA CGM Group: “The 100%eBL goal is an important milestone for the shipping industry, paving the way for the digitization of the entire value chain. It will help reduce lead times and costs, improve customer satisfaction and achieve CSR goals. As a company committed to a reliable, transparent and sustainable supply chain, CMA CGM will play an active role in this initiative.”
Rolf Habben Jansen, CEO, Hapag-Lloyd: “We have been offering our customers electronic bills of lading since last year to simplify and streamline document handling for all stakeholders and to reduce our carbon footprint. The feedback from our customers has been very positive. The target of having 100% eBL by 2030 is an important part of digitalising global supply chains and will require a collective effort from the industry to make it a reality.”
Jeremy Nixon, CEO,ONE: “With digitisation gaining ground ever faster, it is important that the maritime industry continues to evolve and adapt by embracing new global standards and transaction efficiency. A significant acceleration in eBL usage will pave the way for ever greater interoperability across global supply chains. As ONE, we are pleased to be a key part of this and to provide overall a better customer service experience.”
Eric Hsieh, President, Evergreen Marine: “Evergreen is committed to the advantages offered by a universal eBL system —efficiency, innovation, reliability, sustainability. Each party will play a critical role in enabling the transition to digital trade documentation, and Evergreen is proud to be doing its part to help get us there. We’re very pleased to see DCSA members support this initiative that will bring tremendous benefits not just to container shipping, but to the entire supply chain and everyone who relies on international trade.”
Cheng-Mount Cheng, Chairman and CEO, Yang Ming: “Digitalising the bills of lading is an inevitable trend that will undoubtedly bring benefits to the supply chain. However, the transformation requires the support from all stakeholders and carriers. Yang Ming recognises DCSA’s efforts to accelerate maritime digitisation, and is proud to be a part of the 100% eBL goal.”
Kim, Kyung Bae, President and CEO, HMM: “I am pleased to join the collaborative effort on the pathway to the digitalization of the shipping industry. Adopting electronic bills of lading will be a significant milestone in improving efficiency, reducing costs and enhancing security in the transportation service. HMM will continue to team up with all industry stakeholders to promote the digitalization process.”
Eli Glickman, President and CEO, ZIM: “As an innovation-driven company we were very proud to pioneer electronic Bills of Lading as early as 2017, on our WAVE platform. Since then, we have come a long way, digitalising documentation for customers in many countries.Being part of this industry-wide effort to set the standards and reach 100% eBL is a natural outcome of our digitisation efforts, our ESG commitments and our core values.”
I am looking forward bank industries updates on solution of eBL for those the importer / exporter using LOC in international trade
It is an excellent effort with a clear time frame being set for e BL. With the top carriers’ & their top management / leaders’ commitment it is already looking good. Going further its the support & understanding, co-operation from/with all the other entities involved in the industry to get it and fast track implementation that will truly benefit the trade & make it a success.
Looking forward to the same.
I am wondering why this has taken so long to be done. Electronic Bill of Lading will largely change how we do things whereby delayed release of cargo will be controlled, better cost management i.e. Demurrage and Detention,Kpa storage, warehouse rent and other costs that are incurred due to delayed delivery of Paper Bill of Lading. Delays experienced in the process of Delivery Order release or cargo release with shipping line also affect supply chain due to late receipt of cargo. I support the move and call for immediate implementation.
I am suprised that this has not been put into action before then. The industry as a whole is looking to reduce the use of paperwork, such as in paperless trade, as used by DHL and UPS, for the upload of commercial invoices and Customs paperwork.
All these actions will have a positive effect and will make the shipping processes easier.
Yes I am agree.