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Digitalization of eBL: Challenges and Benefits in the International Trade According to MSC

In an increasingly digital global context, the maritime transport industry is transforming the digitalization of its commercial documentation. Within this context, the electronic Bill of Lading (eBL) emerges as a fundamental change with the potential to streamline and simplify global business processes. In this article, we delve into MSC’s analysis of the advantages and challenges of this transition towards eBL digitalization in international trade.

The paper-based Bill of Lading has been widely accepted in the international trade, acting as a crucial document utilized by various parties, from cargo owners to banks and shipping lines. Its interoperability has been a cornerstone in the industry. However, the adoption of eBL presents significant challenges. Different technological solution providers may create exclusive formats for specific platforms, potentially leading to fragmentation and disorder instead of the desired collaboration. Unified technological standards are required to address this issue.

The ambitious goal of achieving 100% eBL adoption by 2030 goes beyond the mere digitalization of the bill of lading. The key is in the digitalization of all commercial documents accompanying international transactions. While eBL offers advantages in security, speed, and efficiency, the presence of other paper documents may slow down its complete adoption.

The most substantial challenge lies in interoperability and collaboration among multiple stakeholders, including cargo owners, shipping lines, banks, customs, and regulators. Additionally, total digitalization must address the supporting documentation that until now is still issued on paper.

Key eBL Benefits:

Security: Eliminates the risk of document loss or fraud.

Speed: Transfers documents in moments instead of weeks.

Sustainability: Contributes to reducing carbon footprint by eliminating paper.

Simplicity: Easy-to-use platforms accessible anytime, anywhere.

Cost Efficiency: Reduces messaging fees and workload, eliminating the need to process documentation on paper.

According to MSC, adopting eBL is the first step towards a broader transformation in commercial documentation. Digitalization will accelerate processes, enhance security, and contribute to a more efficient and sustainable maritime industry in an increasingly digital world. Overcoming challenges will require collaboration and adopting common standards to ensure a successful future in international trade.