FIT Alliance launches eBL declaration to drive digitalisation

FIT Alliance launches eBL declaration to drive digitalisation

BIMCO, DCSA, FIATA, ICC, and Swift (The FIT Alliance) have launched the “Declaration of the electronic Bill of Lading” with the hopes of making international trade more efficient, reliable, sustainable, and secure.

The aim of the declaration is to secure commitment from all stakeholders in international trade to collaborate on driving digitalisation, starting with electronic Bill of Ladings (eBLs), within their industries.

Every year, ocean carriers issue around 45 million bills of lading, one of the most important trade documents in shipping.

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 reportedly enable the trade industry to benefit from faster transactions, cost savings (e.g., reduced administrative cost of cargo holding and document processing), and lowered fraud risks (through the use of digital authentication systems).

READ: Why Resilient Supply Chains Need an Electronic Bill of Lading

According to the Alliance, in 2022, only 2.1 per cent 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,“ said the FIT Alliance said in a common statement.

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 per cent of their iron ore shipments on eBLs.

A McKinsey study estimates that if eBL achieved 100 per cent adoption in the container sector alone, it could unlock $30-40 billion 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.

READ: Maritime Single Window: Embracing port call digitalisation

The Alliance continued to note that: “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, at a time when supply chain resilience is challenged.”

“This declaration is a significant symbol of our joint dedication to shape the future of shipping. 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.”

This push towards digitalisation has been accompanied by many other industry players who have similar goals.

In May 2023, Global Shipping Business Network (GSBN) welcomed Ocean Network Express (ONE) as its latest member as according to GSBN, ONE has been a leader in upgrading its enterprise architecture and developing digital solutions.

More recently, Maersk announced an expansion of its cloud-first technology approach by using Microsoft Azure as cloud platform.

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