Two news articles emphasising the growing movement towards electronic documents


The Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA), in a recent whitepaper, revealed it is developing open source standards for electronic bills of lading (eBL). The non-profit sees blockchain as a promising solution for securing eBL in shipping transactions.

Launched in April last year, the DCSA’s members include many of the world’s biggest shipping companies, including A.P. Moller – Maersk, CMA CGM, Hapag-Lloyd, MSC and ONE. 

Bills of lading are crucial documents because they don’t just serve as a receipt for the cargo loaded on the vessel, but also represent legal title to the goods. They’re often couriered separate to the cargo, and hence there’s a risk of fraud. 

Whereas with blockchain, eBL’s can be digitally signed, and because there are multiple copies of blockchain data it’s hard to tamper with. Hence the DCSA believes distributed ledger technology (DLT) could eliminate the risk of fraud and protect the integrity of a BL. 

To quantify the benefits of using an eBL, DCSA conducted a study which found that processing paper bills was three times costlier than eBLs. It said that the shipping industry could potentially save $4 billion a year if 50% of the market adopts eBL. The DCSA aims to hit this target by 2030. Comparing this with air cargo, the IATA introduced e Air Waybills in 2010 and today it has 68% adoption.

Among the three main barriers to the broader adoption of eBL, DCSA sees blockchain as potentially solving the technology problem, ensuring it’s unique and there isn’t a single honeypot database to manipulate. Next is legal acceptance by governments, banks, insurers and other stakeholders. COVID-19 has gone some way to breaking down this barrier. Lastly, the non-profit talks about collaboration between industry partners, to develop open source digital standards, not just for eBL but for the overall digitization of the industry. 

“If everyone who touches the eBL is using the same data format and communication standards, it can be transported seamlessly regardless of pre-existing relationships between stakeholders,” said DCSA. “Once a standard eBL is available, it will also be easier for regulators, banks and insurers to accept the eBL as a viable alternative to a paper BL.”

Going forward, DCSA said it would begin an initiative this month to enable open collaboration. 

“Digitising documentation, starting with the bill of lading, is key to the simplification and digitization of global trade,” said Thomas Bagge, CEO of DCSA. 

Among current blockchain shipping initiatives, TradeLens is one of the largest with a network of over 150 members. It is currently in production and has processed 23 million containers worldwide. 

Global Shipping Business Network (GSBN) is another consortium which is using blockchain to digitize shipping operations. Some others trialing DLT for bills of lading include the Israel Ports Company, Pacific International and the Singapore Government.  

(Source: Ledger Insights 22 May 2020)

India is digitalizing its bills of lading and other trade documentation workflows as one of the last missing elements within the country’s electronic Port Community System (PCS). The PCS, offering the P-CaSo curated marketplace of specialized services, was built by Portall Infosystems, and they have integrated CargoX’s Platform for Blockchain Document Transfer (BDT).

The Indian Port Community System has seen rapid three-fold growth of users since 2018, when Portall successfully won the tender to modernize the PCS. The main goal was to improve India’s EODB rankings, reduce health risks, and avoid bottlenecks caused during the handling of a hitherto paper-intensive process for export-import (EXIM) cargo at their ports by digitalizing the processes.

The Indian Ports Association (IPA) and the trade bodies in the Federation of Indian Logistics Association (FILA) have emphasized the importance of digitalization in light of the current global pandemic. The Government of India accordingly started evaluating ways to implement electronic bills of lading, electronic delivery orders, certificates of origin, letters of credit, and other trade documentation across all EXIM transactions in India.

The CargoX Platform for Blockchain Document Transfer (BDT) has been successfully tested by Portall Infosystems and India’s global shipping stakeholders to transfer electronic bills of lading. CargoX and Portall Infosystems have entered into a partnership to digitalize the processing of bills of lading and the transfer of trade documents. The CargoX Platform can be accessed by stakeholders through the P-CaSo services marketplace, integrated into PCS 1x.

The dozen major ports in India handle approximately 60% of the country’s total cargo traffic. In 2019-20 that was close to 705 million tonnes of cargo, and 20,837 vessels that were handled by these ports.

Portall has built the Indian Port Community System from the ground up within a record time of 6 months, with complete implementation in 13 major Indian ports – it is currently operational in 19 ports with 16,000+ corporate stakeholders. The B2B marketplace (P-CaSo) for the ecosystem is integrated into the Indian Port Community System to bring various niche services with curated service partners, including services such as blockchain document transfer (BDT).

Digital trade documentation

Post lockdown cargo stoppages due to the inability of courier agencies, requirements of social distancing, the requirement of delivering of physical format-based trade documentation, and the sheer time added in person-to-person contact while handling paper documents create a high level of risk with the contagious nature of Covid-19, result in considerable delays in cargo processing, stated Mr. Gopal Krishna, the Secretary of the Department of Shipping of Government of India in a letter to Dr. Anup Wadhawan, the Secretary of the Department of Commerce.

CargoX and Portall work together to help the Indian market

“We have developed the CargoX Platform for contactless, distributed online teamwork – and we are glad we did. In these times of multiple risks to our common society, we are proud to help shipping companies, who represent the backbone of the economy, resolve supply chain document sending issues and enables them to meet delivery deadlines everywhere in the world, in a secure and efficient manner, while also lowering the document transfer cost,” said Stefan Kukman, CEO and founder of CargoX.

Manish Jaiswal, President of Portall Infosystems: “We saw that there was a good fit between the companies. Both Portall and CargoX are fairly young, but the teams have domain-rich knowledge and bring expertise from various facets of the industry. This way we are able to understand the needs of the customers well and provide for the best-suited solution. As a service partner, CargoX stands for values that we stand for – transparency and innovation, sophisticated yet user-friendly solutions which save cost and time without compromising on the quality of the solution.”

Portall is promoted by JM Baxi Group, India’s leading integrated logistics, services, and transportation conglomerate, with a unique infrastructure and technology backbone. JM Baxi group delivers award winning performance and sets benchmarks in the shipping logistics industry of India in their 104 years of existence.

Numerous real tests and simulations performed by leading global companies

To comply with the Ministry of Shipping’s initiative, Portall and CargoX engaged their partners to test the CargoX Platform for EXIM with Indian companies. Proof-of-concept tests and simulations were run with various use-case scenarios, including breakbulk and container shipments, export, and import from and into India.

Leif Arne Strømmen, Vice President of Innovation at G2 Ocean, the operator of the largest breakbulk carrier fleet in the world with 130 open hatch vessels, has provided his insight into testing: “We are strategically backing trade digitalization and we were glad to provide testing and insight for the project of digitalization of bills of lading in India with our partner CargoX. Because of the lockdown situation, we were unable to execute regular live shipments within the given narrow time frame. Therefore, we successfully simulated shipments and processing based on real historic B/Ls, to provide complete insight into the future workflows and optimizations.”

Alejandro Gutierrez, the founder of the new Forward Together logistics network, carried out a live shipment with Tech Cargo, Global Transitions, DeeEs Engineers India Project, and Parsteel Shelving Co./Atlas Mega Steel, substituting the manual handling of paperwork with a blockchain-protected bill of lading. He reports on his experience: “The ability to conduct shipment transactions and transfers of ownership without the need for human physical interaction creates a breakthrough case for freight forwarding and logistics, especially when health measures are so important.”

Source: Portall, CargoX Hellenic Shipping News


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