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Transparency in shipping – BIMCO loads up on electronic bills of lading

The pandemic has brought renewed focus on improving supply chain resilience and efficiency. BIMCO, working with other bodies such as the ICC and SWIFT has introduced data standards for bulk shipping in order to facilitate wider utilisation of electronic bills of lading (eBLs). There is currently a fragmented offering by a few closed networks without interoperability and, with only a handful of countries enacting enabling legislation, this voyage is far from over and will not be plain sailing.

In a sense, it is a chicken and egg problem - without sufficient volumes, the stakeholders such as shippers, consignees, and the financial institutions will not invest in digitising their processes and upskilling their staff, leading in turn to poor take-up rates.

“One of the obstacles to wider acceptance of eBLs that has been identified is that it is currently not possible to transfer an eBL from one approved platform to another, i.e., a lack of interoperability. This is a particular issue for trade finance banks wanting to transition from paper bills to eBLs as it requires training of staff in the use of multiple platforms, despite the very low volume of eBLs.” “Transferring an eBL between platforms requires that the eBL is in the same digital language by adopting a technical standard. So, the first step is developing and applying such a standard.”


transportation, transparency, shipping, electronic bills of lading, mletr, transparency in shipping