Bills of lading, among the most antiquated processes in the shipping industry, have been given the 21st century treatment today, taking the laborious paperwork online in a standardised fashion.
The Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA), a non-profit group founded by the world’s leading global liners, has published data and process standards for the submission of shipping instructions and issuance of the bill of lading (B/L). DCSA B/L standards are aligned with the UN/CEFACT (United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business) multimodal transport reference data model to ensure a global industry framework that accelerates digitalisation through a unified industry effort.
Digitising documentation, starting with the bill of lading, is key to the simplification and digitalisation of global trade
This is the first publication of the multi-year DCSA eDocumentation initiative which will deliver standards to enable digitalisation of end-to-end container shipping documentation, starting with the B/L. Through this initiative, DCSA aims to facilitate acceptance and adoption of an electronic bill of lading (eBL) by regulators, banks and insurers and to unify communication between these organisations and customers, carriers and all other stakeholders involved in a transaction.
A number of carriers have been developing their own eBLs of late. Today’s announcement provides guidance on how to standardise these online documents.
“Digitising documentation, starting with the bill of lading, is key to the simplification and digitalisation of global trade,” said Thomas Bagge, CEO of DCSA. “The alignment we’ve achieved among the carriers is a critical milestone on the way to full eBL adoption. Paperless trade will benefit all parties involved in a transaction in terms of cost reduction, customer experience, efficiency, growth, innovation and sustainability. We invite all industry stakeholders to collaborate with us on optimising eDocumentation standards for safely and seamlessly delivering goods to their final destination.”
Smart bills of lading are now being pioneered by many companies across the world. The old fashioned paperwork has attracted much criticism in recent years. At a Maritime CEO Forum in Singapore two years ago bills of lading were described as something that have not changed much from the times of Columbus, apart from moving via DHL rather than on horse.