CENTRO INTERNAZIONALE STUDI CONTAINERS
ANNO XXXVIII - Numero MAGGIO 2020
SWITCH TO ELECTRONIC BILLS OF LADING COULD SAVE SHIPPING
BILLIONS EVERY YEAR
The container shipping industry could save itself up to $4bn a
year if half of all bills of lading (B/Ls) were dealt with
digitally, according to the Digital Container Shipping Association
The DCSA is using the coronavirus pandemic to accelerate its
mission to introduce electronic B/Ls to the shipping industry.
CEO Thomas Bagge told The Loadstar yesterday the association's
financial modelling had concluded that container shipping could save
$4bn a year with just a 50% adoption rate of eB/Ls.
Based on the air freight industry's penetration rate of eAWBs -
now at 68% after a decade-long push - the DCSA claimed: "If we
start standardising eBLs now, we believe a 50% adoption rate is
feasible by 2030."
Since the onset of the pandemic, which has forced the office
staff of almost every carrier to work from home and presented huge
difficulties in obtaining and presenting paper B/Ls, increasing
numbers of carriers have resorted to issuing eB/Ls only.
Meanwhile, with airfreight capacity slashed globally after the
widespread cancellation of passenger flights, remaining space is
taken up largely by urgent medical shipments, and carriers have been
unable to send B/Ls around the world where consignees and forwarders
need to present them to ports and customs authorities before cargo
can be released.
"The Covid-19 situation is bringing the core strengths of a
standardised eB/L to the fore. Cargo in ports cannot be gated out
because of paper that is stuck elsewhere due to airfreight delays,"
explained André Simha, global chief digital and innovation
officer for MSC and DCSA chairman.
For example, he said, in late March, shortly after the UK
government had brought in lockdown regulations, Evergreen UK sent
out a customer advisory which said: "It will not be possible to
issue export original bills of lading at London, and we will stop
issuing paper invoices while these measures are in force."
The line urged customers to instead consider registering for
However, the absence of a physical B/L could leave shipper
ownership of goods vulnerable.
One forwarder said: "Some carriers are saying they will
only do telex release or waybills. Either way, the consequence is
that title of goods cannot be maintained by the shipper, so it's
significant from an ownership and control perspective."
Mr Bagge said he hoped the DCSA would publish an initial
document on eB/Ls "later this year", and revealed he had
sought advice from IATA on how to manage the process.
"Tt would be crazy not to seek their advice, given the
experience they've had, and they stressed two key points: firstly,
involve the authorities as early as possible - we have been speaking
to the World Customs Organisation and the EC, and will pick up with
the US authorities when allows.
"Secondly, the B/L is only one document. Part of the
challenge with introducing eB/Ls is that there is broader issue of
other paper documents - import and export declarations, DG
certificates and so on..."
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