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The FIT Alliance, formed of BIMCO, DCSA, FIATA, ICC, and Swift, has initiated the “Electronic Bill of Lading Declaration” to enhance the efficiency, reliability, sustainability, and security of global trade through the use of electronic Bills of Lading (eBLs).
The objective of this declaration is to get a collective commitment from all parties involved in international commerce to spearhead digital transformation, beginning with the implementation of eBLs.
Annually, maritime carriers generate approximately 45 million bills of lading, a critical document in the shipping industry. At present, a large portion of these international shipping documents lack standardisation and are predominantly paper-based, necessitating physical transfer between parties.
Embracing eBLs will offer the trading sector advantages such as expedited transactions, cost-efficiency (including reduced overheads for cargo storage and paperwork), and diminished risks of fraud, thanks to digital verification systems.
In 2022, a mere 2.1% of bills of lading and waybills in container trade were digital. This is in spite of the fact that comprehensive digitalisation of trade paperwork, starting with eBLs, would reduce expenses and enhance the efficiency, reliability, security, and sustainability of international trade, while also mitigating the risks of unlawful activities.
In the dry bulk segment, there are promising indications of progress. Four of the largest global mining corporations are already utilising eBLs for roughly 20% of their iron ore shipments. A study by McKinsey suggests that achieving full adoption of eBLs in just the container sector could potentially unlock $30-40 billion in worldwide trade growth by alleviating trade friction.
It could also contribute to the conservation of approximately 28,000 trees annually, equivalent to nearly 39 football pitches of forest, and substantially cut down carbon emissions by eliminating paper usage.
The FIT Alliance stated, “A universal eBL will be advantageous for all stakeholders in the global supply chain, whether in bulk or container shipping. The broad acceptance of a standardised eBL will not only benefit the maritime sector but also the global flow of goods, particularly at a time when supply chain resilience is under scrutiny.”
“This declaration serves as a potent testament to our collective resolve to shape the future of the shipping industry. The global application of an eBL will fast-track the digitalisation of trade, benefiting customers, financial institutions, customs agencies, governmental bodies, ocean shipping service providers, and all other stakeholders.”
As the majority of technical and legal hurdles for the universal adoption of eBLs are already being tackled, the next critical move is a firm commitment to digital transformation from all entities engaged in international trade.
By endorsing the FIT Alliance eBL Declaration, all stakeholders can openly indicate their preparedness for change and pledge to work together in advancing digitalisation in their respective sectors.
The FIT Alliance was established in 2022 by BIMCO, the Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA), the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA), the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), and the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (Swift).
By forming this alliance, these organisations have coalesced around the goal of standardising the digital transformation of global trade.
Niels Nuyens, Head of Digital Trade at DCSA summarised the news by saying, “We are happy that our partners have signed up to this new agreement that will help accelerate trade digitalisation through a globally applicable eBL to the benefit of an incredibly diverse set of stakeholders from customers to government regulators, through to shipping services from every industry. To achieve widespread use of eBL, we must all be on board with adopting digital B/L standards. This agreement from our diverse industry associations is an exciting milestone in our journey towards standardising all container shipping documentation through our shared initiative.”
See the Appendix to learn more about who are early supporters of the eBL Declaration and to sign up visit www.fit-alliance.org.
APPENDIX – FIT Alliance eBL declaration quotes from early signatories
“Bolero is committed to championing the collective endeavour to advance the adoption of electronic bills of lading. Our ongoing engagement in standards and interoperability initiatives underscores our dedication to realising the transformative potential of digitisation.” – Andrew Raymond, Managing Director at Bolero.
“For CargoX, collaboration in digitalization is an essential element of global trade in the future. We find global standards and interoperability between electronic trade document platforms a key element in the success of any and all platforms, as well as for the success of companies, financial institutions, and even governmental entities who facilitate international trade.” – Peter Kern, VP of Commercial, CargoX
“Trade digitalisation has accelerated in recent years, with the shift being sustained as trade players recognise the important role it plays in strengthening business resiliency and efficiency. Now more than ever, interoperability and common standards are crucial to prevent digital islands from forming while lowering the barriers of entry to create a network effect. DBS has been at the forefront of trade digitalisation and we are proud to participate in the eBL declaration alongside like-minded partners to help push a more seamless and effective trade ecosystem across the line.” – Daniel Lit, Group Head of Documentary Trade, Global Transaction Services, DBS Bank.
“We strongly support the standards and collaboration as means to get interoperability and, thus, speed up eBL adoption for the benefit of the entire community. At edoxOnline we are committed to keep working with all stakeholders to make this happen. Working together on the challenges and barriers, and how to overcome them, is the only way.” – Alejandro Pernías, President & CEO at Global Share S.A. and Global Share North
“GLEIF is delighted to partner with the FIT Alliance on the “Declaration of the Bill of Ladings (eBL)” for a more efficient trade ecosystem based on digital standards. We support the initiative by leveraging the Legal Entity Identifier, an established open-source, interoperable code based on the ISO 17442 standard for verifying counterparties globally. By integrating the LEI into digital supply chain systems, enterprises can benefit from improved transparency, reduced fraudulent activities, and enhanced operational efficiency by lowering costs for paperwork.” – Stephan Wolf, CEO Global Legal Entity Identifier Foundation.
“We are witnessing a watershed moment in the journey towards paperless trade. This declaration is another important milestone of mass eBL adoption for all forms of shipping. GSBN is fully committed to the eBL digitalisation and will continue to provide the infrastructure necessary to fully take advantage of new opportunities created by the digitalisation of the sector.” – Bertrand Chen, CEO of GSBN
“Electronic Bills of Lading are a focal point for digitization of the trade ecosystem and industry collaboration is critical to make paperless trade a reality. As a member of ICC’s DSI Industry Advisory Board, we see this as a positive step forward and HSBC is well placed to support clients in this journey towards end-to-end digitization.” – Venkatraman Panchapakesan, Managing Director, Head of Products and Propositions for Asia Pacific & Global Head of Trade Services for the Global Trade and Receivables Finance at HSBC
“Stakeholder input and collaboration is crucial to achieving market adopted standards. We thank the FIT Alliance founding members for taking on the essential task of collating critical input from a wide range of stakeholder groups to create modular, iterative standards that are key to accelerating global trade digitalization.” – Alexander Goulandris, Co-Head, ICE Digital Trade.
“Taking proactive steps to drive digitalization in shipping and adopting digital solutions can boost global adoption of standards-based electronic bills of lading. Moving towards the more widespread use of electronic bills of lading represents a significant step forward for the shipping industry. This, in turn, can supercharge shipping and global trade,” said IQAX CEO Romney Wong
“As eBL solution provider, SECRO Inc. is fully committed to collaboration with all stakeholders in international trade. Secro supports FIT Alliance in its work to develop, adopt and promote eBL and eBL standards. With secure, scalable, intuitive and globally recognizable eBL SaaS, SECRO is ready to engage in digitalization of commodity trade documents.” – Piotr Cichocki Managing Director – Europe
“SGTraDex is proud to be part of FIT Alliance’s eBL movement which marks a pivotal step towards modernising global trade. We firmly believe that industry-wise standardisation and recognition of eBLs are key to further digitalisation and enhanced efficiency in international trade.” – Ms Thaw Yee Leng, Head of Market Development, SGTraDex Services.
“Signing the FIT Alliance eBL Declaration underscores Tata Steel’s resolute drive for digital progress in global trade. We are already making visible progress in integrating data-driven insights, automation, and smart solutions to enhance operational efficiency, optimize processes, and create value for all stakeholders. Embracing universal eBL stands as a bold testament to our vision for an agile, responsive, and resilient steel supply chain of the future.” – Jayanta Banerjee, Chief Information Officer, Tata Steel.
“TradeGo is a blockchain based platform focusing on international trading digitization. We declared to commit ourselves to collaborate with FIT Alliance members and other stakeholders to support and promote eBL standards. We look forward a universal eBL.” – America LLC
“TradeWaltz Inc. is pleased to be an Early Supporter of the FIT Alliance. As one of the Japan’s digital trade platforms, we hope to work with ICC DSI and our partners to promote the digitalization of international trade and contribute to making trade more secure, effective, and sustainable.” – Hirohisa Kojima, President and CEO, TradeWaltz Inc
“We fully support the FIT Alliance’s vision for a standards-based electronic bill of lading (eBL) and its potential to revolutionize the shipping industry. This is the path to progress, and we are committed to being part of the journey toward a more efficient, sustainable, and interconnected global supply chain.” – Noam Rosenfeld, CEO, WaveBL