DCSA’s member carriers commit to trade digitalisation with electronic bill of lading 


The Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA) has announced that its nine ocean carrier members have committed to a fully DCSA standardised, electronic bill of lading (eBL) by 2030.

Switching away from the transfer of physical paper bills of lading is expected to save $6.5 billion in direct costs for stakeholders and enable $30-40 billion in annual global trade growth as digitisation reduces trade friction. 

It is also expected to transform the customer experience while improving sustainability. 

Ocean carriers issue around 45 million bills of lading a year. In 2021, only 1.2 per cent of these were electronic. 

Global management consulting firm, McKinsey, estimates that if eBL gains 100 per cent adoption across the industry, it could unlock around $18 billion in gains for the trade ecosystem through faster document handling and reduced human error. 

The bill of lading functions as a document of title, receipt for shipped goods, and a record of agreed terms and conditions. 

READ: Digital landmark as Future International Trade Alliance formed with DCSA, BIMCO, FIATA, ICC and SWIFT

According to the DCSA, manual, paper-based processes are time-consuming, expensive and environmentally unsustainable for stakeholders along complex supply chains. 

Paper-based processes break down when cargo in ports cannot be gated out because original bills of lading, or title documents fail to arrive or cannot be manually processed in time. 

In contrast, digital processes enable data to flow instantly and securely, reducing delays and waste. 

DCSA expects that transforming document exchange through the eBL will accelerate digitalisation to benefit customers, banks, customs/government authorities, providers of ocean shipping services and all maritime supply chain stakeholders.

This announcement comes several months after DCSA published beta releases of its Standards for the Booking Process 1.0 and the Bill of Lading 2.0 to improve digitalisation progress within the shipping documentation process.

Thomas Bagge, CEO, DCSA, said: “The digitalisation of international trade holds vast potential for the world economy by reducing friction and, as trade brings prosperity and the eBL will further enable trade, helping bring millions out of poverty. 

“Document digitisation has the power to transform international trade and requires collaboration from all stakeholders.”

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