DCSA’s members commit to 100 pct adoption of electronic bill of lading by 2030

Nine ocean carrier members of the Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA) have committed to 100% adoption of an electronic bill of lading (eBL) based on DCSA standards by 2030.

Illustration; Image credit Maersk

The bill of lading is one of the most important trade documents in container shipping. It functions as a document of title, receipt for shipped goods and a record of agreed terms and conditions. Ocean carriers issue around 45 million bills of lading a year. In 2021, only 1.2%of these were electronic, according to DCSA’s data.

Digital processes offer a faster, more cost-effective, and environmentally sustainable solution for stakeholders along complex supply chains compared to manual, paper-based processes which are prone to delays and breakdowns, particularly when cargo cannot be gated out due to missing or slow processing of original bills of lading.

DCSA said that switching away from the transfer of physical paper bills of lading could save $6.5 billion in direct costs for stakeholders, enable $30-40 billion in annual global trade growth, transform the customer experience and improve sustainability.

That being said, it will require all hands-on-deck to be fully adopted including banks, customs/government authorities, providers of ocean shipping services, and all maritime supply chain stakeholders.

“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. This heralds the start of a new era in container shipping as the industry transitions to scaled automation and fully paperless trade,” Thomas Bagge, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), DCSA said.

DCSA members include industry majors such as MSC, Maersk, CMA CGM, Evergreen, Hapag-Lloyd, HMM, ONE, Yang Ming and ZIM.

“ Our industry needs to accelerate digitalisation to help make shipping more efficient, more secure and a better experience for our customers. On top of these benefits, moving to 100% eBL will contribute towards our climate goals, as we move towards net zero 2050,” Soren Toft, CEO, MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company, said.

 “This is an important step in the journey towards creating a digital standard of one of the most cost heavy and troublesome components in the shipping industry. A fully digitised bill of lading enables a more seamless customer experience across the supply chain and in turn it will help democratise trade and reduce time and costs for all involved parties. The need for digitisation in logistics is urgent, and the industry needs to speed up the process,” Vincent Clerc, CEO A.P. Moller -Maersk, said.

Commenting on the commitment, Rolf Habben Jansen, CEO of Hapag-Lloyd, said that Hapag-Lloyd has been offering eBls since last year to simplify and streamline document handling for all stakeholders and to reduce the company’s carbon footprint, adding that the feedback from customers has been very positive.

Speaking on behalf of Yang Ming, the company’s CEO Cheng-Mount Cheng noted that digitalizing the bills of lading was an inevitable trend, however, he cautioned that the transformation requires support from all stakeholders and carriers.