BIMCO has developed and published an electronic bill of lading (eBL) standard for the bulk shipping sector, with the aim of accelerating digitalisation in the supply chain by establishing a common industry approach.
The eBL Standard is a structured dataset consisting of 20 predefined data fields that are common to bulk shipping bills of lading. These include information like port of loading and discharge, bill of lading number, cargo gross weight, and date and place of issue.
“Issuing bills of lading electronically has been possible for more than 20 years. Despite the availability of safe and well-established platforms that have been approved by the International Group of P&I Clubs, less than 2% of seaborne world trade is carried on electronic bills of lading (eBL),” BIMCO says.
“One of the obstacles to wider acceptance of eBLs that has been identified is that it is currently not possible to transfer an eBL from one approved platform to another, i.e., a lack of interoperability. This is a particular issue for trade finance banks wanting to transition from paper bills to eBLs as it requires training of staff in the use of multiple platforms, despite the very low volume of eBLs.”
“Transferring an eBL between platforms requires that the eBL is in the same digital language by adopting a technical standard. So, the first step is developing and applying such a standard.”
BIMCO’s eBL Standard is aligned with the UN/CEFACT Multimodal Transport Reference Data Model as well as standards produced by DCSA and FIATA. BIMCO is also a founding member of the FIT (Future International Trade) Alliance, a cross-industry coalition of organisations working together to produce open standards for electronic trade documents.
The standard’s design is consistent with bills of lading already used in the bulk sector, for example, CONGENBILL, with the underlying framework applying equally to BIMCO’s various bills of lading and other bulk bills of lading.