Standardisation, digitisation and interoperability to transform global trade: key learnings from SIBOS 2023

5 Min read | December 10, 2023
Banks play a pivotal role as a lubricant in global trade transactions. SIBOS is an excellent event for Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA) to reach out to the financial industry and explain how the container carriers collaborate to accelerate digitalisation in container shipping processes. It is our purpose to meet with as many global trade banks as possible during the event and explain what DCSA does, why we do it and what we need from stakeholders such as the banks to make it happen. SIBOS is the place to reach out to the financial industry, not only to share your own views and goals; it is an opportunity for the industry to share its priorities and expectations on markets and products. We understand the complexity of the financial industry and the amount of time it requires for new applications to be implemented. We have asked each and every bank to support the eBL Movement, to step up and adopt to it, and we explained that digitisation and standards will only work out, when all parties across the supply chain use platforms that work to digital standards and are interoperable. It will ease the adoption process. Interoperability and standards are scalable and that makes international trade accessible, efficient, easy to use and sustainable.The time to act on interoperability is nowDCSA’s own Niels Nuyens was a panellist in a session discussing standardisation, interoperability and digital transformation in global trade. Alongside Niels on the Swift moderated panel were representatives from Swift, ICC, edoxOnline and CargoX. A packed venue hosted around 100 attendees from those global trade banks, fintech companies and software providers, with more participants online. Interest in the topic was high as the panel invited discussion on the starting point for the electronic bill of lading (eBL), what stakeholders such as banks should look for from digital platforms and standards, and what challenges they might face.Panel participants emphasized that the time to act is now; there was a clear sense of urgency around digitalisation, interoperable systems and adoption of standards to ease connectivity and transmission of data. Panel discussions on the topic of standardisation, digitisation and interoperability need to be echoed to explain to stakeholders in the industries what is required to succeed.Overcoming challenges to digitaliseThe panel session flagged challenges when it came to the low levels of adoption. This fits with the findings of a survey conducted by the Future International Trade (FIT) Alliance, comprising BIMCO, DCSA, FIATA, ICC and SWIFT with the Alliance’s members.Through it, a majority (63%) of respondents cited lack of stakeholder readiness as a key reason for not using eBLs or not using them more. This was the second most cited reason behind technology, platform or interoperability concerns.By embracing standardisation, as the basis of digitization, supply chain parties will benefit from interoperability. This will help alleviate concerns around investing in particular technologies or platforms, there will not be a restriction to be able to share data with, as interoperability overcomes this.Many global trade finance banks are able to process eBLs, are licensed to one of the eBL solution providers. Without the interoperability, supply chain partners in a transaction must be using the same system to be able to transmit eBL. Interoperable eBL solution providers enable seamless eBL transmission from one provider to another one. So, each party in the transaction needs only one single license: it takes adoption to a next level…Change is underwayIn July, the Electronic Trade Documents Bill received royal assent in the UK. This change ensures that an electronic trade document, such as the eBL, has the same legal status as an equivalent paper document. Meanwhile, the five industry associations that comprise the FIT Alliance, have backed the eBL by declaring they will secure commitment from stakeholders to collaborate on driving digitalisation.Attendees at SIBOS were positive about digitalisation. DCSA is encouraged by the conversations: digitisation is back on the agenda and industry driven movements, especially the eBL movement driven by the container carriers, is applauded by the financial industry which indicates that change is underway. However, as SIBOS’ theme also highlights, collaboration is elementary for successful digitisation with benefits across the supply chain. The financial industry and the trade eco-system seem to be ready for innovation through collaboration for improved efficiency, global connectivity,  true sustainability and an overall improved customer experience.Where to find more information To find out more about the case for digital standards, take a look at our e-book. You can access all of the DCSA standards available now from our standards page.