Prospects bloom for widespread use of electronic bills of lading


Earlier this year, a number of major dry cargo charterers began inviting owners to incorporate clauses into time charters to permit the use of electronic bills of lading in place of their paper equivalent. The International Group of P&I Clubs has endorsed two electronic bill of lading solution providers – essDOCS and Bolero. This effectively means that if an owner uses one of these systems, they will have the same level of P&I cover as they would with a paper bill of lading. Both systems work by providing a combination of a rulebook that creates a legal framework and technology that replicates the functions of a traditional paper bill of lading. Neither essDOCS nor Bolero charges ship owners to register as users – transaction charges are borne by the charterers. For users of these systems the experience is not radically different to online banking, which has become commonplace in business.

BIMCO has always been a firm supporter of electronic bills of lading solutions. After many years of development the industry may now be on the cusp of a broader uptake of systems which will help reduce fraud, speed up the documentation process and, notably, reduce reliance by ship owners on letters of indemnity given in exchange for delivery of cargo without presentation of the original bills of lading.

At a recent meeting in London, several major dry cargo charterers met with representatives of ship owners, P&I Clubs and electronic bill of lading solution providers to develop an eBill charter party clause. After careful consideration of the key issues, the group has prepared a simple and straightforward clause that acknowledges that electronic bills of lading may be used and treated identically to paper bills provided that whatever system is used is one that has been approved by the International Group of P&I Clubs and is listed in their Electronic (Paperless) Trading Systems circular. At present, the only approved systems are those provided by Bolero and essDOCS.

The new clause will be considered by BIMCO’s Documentary Committee at its meeting in Dubai at the end of April and, if approved, will be published in May.

Source from : BIMCO