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Port, Customs and Carriers come together to promote digitalisation

shipping and freight news - shipping and freight resourceDigitalisation has become one of the key focus areas in the shipping and freight industry.. The benefits of digitalisation are being realised by the industry and it is slowly but surely working on changing the way the freight business has been conducted all these years..

Carriers, shippers, customs, ports etc seem to be moving away from the “this is how it has always been done” mode and moving more and more towards digitising the processes.

Ports and terminals are an integral part of the whole chain in logistics.. Digitalisation offers ports and terminal the opportunity to add value to its customers through innovation, enhanced productivity, greater efficiency, greater safety, and security..

Recently, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, Singapore Customs and the Singapore Shipping Association signed an MOU on digitalisation of trade and maritime documentation in the industry..

As per MPA, under this MOU, the parties will jointly look into the digitalisation of trade and maritime documentation in the industry..

Through this collaboration, the parties aim to promote digitalisation, by showcasing the value gained through productivity, time and cost savings.. The focus areas of this MOU will include:

  1. Collaboration with multiple industry stakeholders to digitalise the documentation required across the maritime industry..
  2. Leveraging suitable technologies such as distributed ledger technology to achieve greater assurance of trust and integrity of the shipping documentation passing through the supply chain players..
  3. Development of standards for the digitalisation of maritime-related documentation with industry partners..

Together with the various partners in the maritime industry, MPA, Singapore Customs and SSA, will work together to identify and prioritise relevant maritime-related documentation for digitalisation and key documents such as the bill of lading..

In line with this MOU, Singapore’s Minister for Communications and Information, Mr S. Iswaran announced the plan to launch a blockchain-based system in its maritime sector called TradeTrust..

“TradeTrust is an initiative to develop a set of standards to help businesses securely exchange digital trade documents. We believe it will improve the efficiency of our trading and logistics sectors,” Minister Iswaran said.

As per the Minister, this pilot is aimed at cutting container ships’ waiting times and fraud risks by digitising the paper-based lading bills, making it shareable and accessible as and when container ships dock and unload in Singapore..

A bill of lading is one of the most important documents in global trade and has 3 basic purposes or roles:

  1. Evidence of Contract of Carriage
  2. Receipt of Goods and
  3. Document of Title to the goods

The paper-based bill of lading is one of the most essential trade documents in shipping..

The minister said he believed that this digitisation can cut administration costs by as much as 20% while also cutting the risk of fraud propelling Singapore to become an even more attractive business hub, especially to the maritime industry..

electronic bills of lading - tradetrust - shipping and freight resource

The Government of Singapore also plans to introduce changes to the Electronic Transactions Act to recognise digital bills of lading..

Electronic bills of lading, which are generated through blockchain technology, provide all parties with proof of authenticity and also eliminates the need for repetitive checks at each country to determine the legality of bills received..

The MOU signifies Singapore Customs’ commitment in working with the public and private sectors to enhance cross-border trade efficiency and facilitate more seamless data exchange.

Implemented through the National Trade Platform, the initiative to digitalise the BL will leverage technology to bring about greater convenience to maritime industry players and productivity gains for businesses.

Singapore Customs is excited to embark on the digital transformation journey with our maritime partners and to realise the vision of the Sea Transport Industry Transformation Map.” said Mr. Ho Chee Pong, Director-General, Singapore Customs..


The shipping industry is currently very paper-intensive involving many sets of documents to be delivered to various agencies for approvals and clearance.

The electronic bill of lading (e-BL) will be a boon to the shipping industry as it significantly reduces the amount of physical copies.

More importantly efficiency and productivity improve as e-BL can be sent electronically, cutting down the need to print and time to deliver these documents.

Also with the advent of new technology, e-BLs can also offer better protection against fraud than conventional hardcopy,” said Mr Esben Poulsson, President of SSA..


Working groups will be established to map out the details of the relevant processes and documents that have been identified for digitalisation..

MPA and Singapore Customs, together with SSA will identify the corresponding industry standards of the documents, as well as drive the development of a supporting legal and governance framework..

The outcome of the digitalisation efforts of the BL will be implemented through the National Trade Platform to leverage the efforts to reach out to the wider trade and supply chain community to promote the adoption of eBL..

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