Will the year 2020 be the beginning of the end for the paper bill of lading..??

11:49pm 30th June 2020

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Many things have changed in the last 30 years in shipping and freight..

Many positive new developments have taken place with things from the vintage days of shipping either obsolete to almost obsolete now.

The shipping and freight industry in the next decade will be told that 2020 was the year that saw the beginning of the end for the paper “Bill of Lading” and the year in which the switch to “Electronic Bill of Lading” (eBL) began in earnest.

Due to the restrictions in human and transport mobility that COVID-19 has brought on, many containers are stuck at various ports, terminals, depots and warehouses around the world due to the receiver not receiving the original paper bill of lading required for the release of goods at destination.

The trade is already losing millions of dollars due to lockdowns, slow productivity at ports, port congestion, overpriced trucking costs, reduction in carrier’s TEU capacities etc.. Delays in receiving this paper documentation and the resultant delays in cargo delivery is creating further losses and stretching the budgets of the traders.

Although shipping lines have assisted with releasing the goods against LOI without insisting on the original bill of lading, this is one lesson that no one is going to forget and there is no going back. Whatever doubts or hesitation that the trade had, whatever concerns they had on the issue of safety, security and acceptability relating to the transmission and receipt of electronic bill of lading, whatever concerns in terms of readiness of the carrier and country to handle an electronic bill of lading – it is all on its way out..

The electronic bill of lading is quickly becoming a thing of NOW.

The eBL is about to make a strong entry into the container shipping industry and the sooner everyone welcomes, adopts and accepts it, the better for all. There are still a lot of doubts about the efficacy of the eBL, especially among small to medium business.

The setting of standards for the handling and transmission of the eBL will greatly enable interoperability and acceptability among everyone involved in the documentary chain including BCOs, Banks and regulatory authorities and make the eBL a viable replacement for the paper bill of lading.


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