Streamlining international trade by digitalising end-to-end documentation

Streamlining international trade by digitalising end-to-end documentation

Paper-based processes create complexity, delays and waste

To complete an international shipment, several documents must be exchanged between multiple parties

Currently, these documents are not standardised, and the majority are still paper based, requiring physical hand-off between participants. The manual handover of paper documents is inefficient, expensive and error prone, which contributes to high costs and supply chain bottlenecks.  

Despite these issues, adoption of the electronic bill of lading (eBL) is currently extremely limited. In 2021, DCSA estimated that 16 million original B/Ls were issued by ocean carriers and that paper B/Ls cost the industry around US$11 billion per year. Despite this, at the end of 2021, only 1.2 per cent of B/Ls was electronic.¹

Benefits of digitalising documentation

The bill of lading has changed little since the 1700s, but undoubtedly the world has
Creating a standardised, digital native version of the B/L and all associated documentation, and standardising B/L processes will drive benefits not only for the industry and its stakeholders, but for the world at large.  

A dramatically simplified and streamlined B/L process will enable carriers to become more efficient while providing a better experience for shippers. And every stakeholder will benefit from increased efficiency, accuracy and reduced administration costs. 

The DCSA Digital Trade initiative

The need for digital documentation is widely accepted among industry stakeholders and momentum driving universal eBL is building within industry and government. In support of this effort, DCSA’s Digital Trade initiative will mitigate the challenges involved in standardising and digitising international trade documents. The ultimate goal is to facilitate acceptance and adoption of an eBL by regulators, banks and insurers, and to unify communication between these organisations and customers, carriers and all other stakeholders involved in an international shipping transaction.

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¹DCSA research based on data collected from DCSA carrier members. The financial calculation includes costs for carriers, freight forwarders, shippers and financial institutions mainly around manual administration and courier fees