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Interoperability of electronic bills of lading soon to become reality

Electronic Bill of Lading or eBL has been in the news for several years and has been widely sought after as a solution to many issues faced by the use of paper bills of lading mainly – delays in transmission and the risk of losing original bills of lading.. These issues were further compounded during COVID-19 pandemic as the pandemic prevented many paper bills of lading reaching its destination in time for cargo release..

The first issue brings with it potential additional charges in the form of demurrage, detention and port storage while the second issue brings with it the risk of cargo loss through fraud, additional capital requirement in the form of bank guarantee along with the prospect of additional charges in the form of demurrage, detention and port storage..

electronic bill of lading transfer

There has however, been a few known issues with interoperability in the wide spread adoption of electronic bills of lading.. Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA), a neutral, non-profit group established to further digitalisation and standardisation of container shipping has been working with its members and industry service providers releasing standards for eBL data formats and interfaces (DCSA eBL Interoperability Standards 1.0 – Beta 1).

DCSA in conjunction with its nine member carriers (MSC, Maersk, CMA CGM, Hapag-Lloyd, ONE, Evergreen, Yang Ming, HMM and ZIM) today announced Phase 2 of its electronic bill of lading (eBL) platform interoperability proof of concept (PoC)..

In a press release announcing the release, DCSA said “The PoC will be conducted in conjunction with CargoX, edoxOnline, essDOCS and WAVE BL. The companies will implement DCSA eBL Interoperability Standards to test eBL interoperability through the full bill of lading lifecycle using data that mirrors a live shipment.

Upon completion of the PoC, DCSA eBL Interoperability Standards 1.0 will be officially released and made available to all eBL platform providers to incorporate the standards into their eBL solutions to ensure interoperability with DCSA standards-based eBLs,” the release added..

Phase 1 of the PoC was completed in May 2022 with seven actively participating carrier members, ExxonMobil and four of six IGP&I-approved eBL solutions providers, namely CargoX, edoxOnline, essDOCS and WAVE BL..

Phase 2 which has adjusted standards and design based on participant feedback from Phase 1 is expected to be completed before the end of 2022 and is said to ensure full technological interoperability between participating eBL platforms.. Interoperability allows all stakeholders to exchange electronic documentation with each other even if they use different platforms..

For the global supply chain, fully interoperable eBL is a starting point for digital trade. It will make today’s practices more efficient, reliable and sustainable, but ultimately it will provide a foundation for further digitalisation,” commented Thomas Bagge, CEO of DCSA..

Actors in global supply chains want to be able to choose the best platform for their needs. For service providers, it will remove barriers to adoption and create an operational foundation that fosters innovation and collaboration. According to our year-end 2021 research, less than 1.2% of all bills of lading was electronic. We urge all industry stakeholders to get involved and be part of the movement to work towards 100% eBL adoption. added Bagge..

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