The FIT Alliance has launched the Declaration of the electronic Bill of Lading, to secure commitment from all international trade stakeholders to drive digitalisation, starting with eBLs, within their industries.

According to the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), currently, many international shipping documents are not standardised, and the majority are still paper based, requiring physical hand-off between participants. The adoption of eBLs will enable the trade industry to benefit from:

  • Faster transactions
  • Cost savings (e.g. reduced administrative cost of cargo holding and document processing)
  • Lowered fraud risks (through the use of digital authentication systems).

By signing the FIT Alliance eBL Declaration, all stakeholders can publicly signal their readiness for change and their commitment to collaborate to drive digitalisation within their industries.

The FIT Alliance was formed in 2022 by BIMCO, the Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA), the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA), the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), and the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (Swift). In forming the alliance, the groups have united behind the mission to standardise the digitalisation of international trade.


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In 2022, only 2.1% of bills of lading and waybills in the container trade were electronic. This is despite the fact that end-to-end digitalisation of trade documentation, starting with eBL, will cut costs, make international trade more efficient, reliable, secure, sustainable and less susceptible to illegal activity or fraud.

In the dry bulk sector there are some encouraging signs of growth. Four of the world’s largest mining companies are already carrying around 20% of their iron ore shipments on eBLs.

A McKinsey study estimates that if eBL achieved 100% adoption in the container sector alone, it could unlock $30-40 bn in global trade growth by reducing trade friction in the container trade alone. It could also help save 28,000 trees per year, equivalent to around 39 football fields of forest, and significantly reduce carbon emissions by eliminating paper.

"A universal eBL will benefit all stakeholders involved in the global supply chain whether in bulk shipping or container shipping. Achieving widespread adoption of a standards-based eBL will benefit not only the shipping industry, but also the global movement of goods", the FIT Alliance said.

According to FIT Alliance, transforming document exchange through a globally applicable eBL will accelerate trade digitalisation to the benefit customers, banks, customs, government authorities, providers of ocean shipping services and all other stakeholders.

As many of the technical and legal obstacles to universal eBL are already being addressed, a clear commitment to digitalisation from everyone involved in international trade is a crucial next step.

To remind, MSC has recently published a new white paper to support customers with the transition from paper-based Bills of Lading to the electronic Bill of Lading (eBL), which can be found here. 

The FIT Alliance eBL Declaration can be found and signed here.

Source: Safety4sea


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Issue 86 of Robban Assafina

(Jul./ Aug. 2023)


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