DCSA member carriers,  including nine of the world’s major box lines, commit to converting 50% of original bills of lading to digital within five years and 100% by 2030, to accelerate the digitalisation of container trade

By Will Waters

The world’s top container lines have agreed to accelerate the digitalisation of container trade by committing to 100% adoption of a fully standardised electronic bill of lading by 2030 and converting 50% of original bills of lading to digital within five years.

Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA) announced that its nine ocean carrier members, including container shipping giants MSC, Maersk, CMA CGM, Hapag-Lloyd, ONE, and Evergreen, have commited to 100% adoption of an electronic bill of lading (eBL) based on DCSA standards by 2030. It claimed that switching away from the transfer of physical paper bills of lading could save $6.5 billion in direct costs for stakeholders, enable $30-40 billion in annual global trade growth, transform the customer experience, and improve sustainability.

DCSA stressed that the bill of lading is one of the most important trade documents in container shipping, functioning as a document of title, receipt for shipped goods and a record of agreed terms and conditions. Ocean carriers issue around 45 million bills of lading a year, but in 2021, only 1.2% of these were electronic, DCSA said.

“Manual, paper-based processes are time-consuming, expensive and environmentally unsustainable for stakeholders along complex supply chains. Paper-based processes breakdown when cargo in ports cannot be gated out because original bills of lading, or title documents fail to arrive or cannot be manually processed in time. In contrast, digital processes enable data to flow instantly and securely, reducing delays and waste,” DCSA added.

“Transforming document exchange through the eBL will accelerate digitalisation to benefit customers, banks, customs/government authorities, providers of ocean shipping services and all maritime supply chain stakeholders.”

Thomas Bagge, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), DCSA said: “The digitalisation of international trade holds vast potential for the world economy by reducing friction and, as trade brings prosperity and the eBL will further enable trade, helping bring millions out of poverty. This heralds the start of a new era in container shipping as the industry transitions to scaled automation and fully paperless trade. Document digitalisation has the power to transform international trade and requires collaboration from all stakeholders. I applaud the leadership of our members in coming together to achieve this important milestone.”

The signatories to today’s commitment, MSC, Maersk, CMA CGM, Hapag-Lloyd, ONE, Evergreen, Yang Ming, HMM and ZIM, said:

Soren Toft, CEO, MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company: “I am delighted that carriers are taking this big step towards paperless trade. Our industry needs to accelerate digitalisation to help make shipping more efficient, more secure and a better experience for our customers. On top of these benefits, moving to 100% eBL will contribute towards our climate goals, as we move towards net zero 2050.”

Vincent Clerc, CEO A.P. Moller-Maersk: “This is an important step in the journey towards creating a digital standard of one of the most cost heavy and troublesome components in the shipping industry. A fully digitised bill of lading enables a more seamless customer experience across the supply chain and in turn it will help democratise trade and reduce time and costs for all involved parties. The need for digitisation in logistics is urgent, and the industry needs to speed up the process.”

Olivier Nivoix, Group Executive Vice-President, Shipping, CMA CGM Group: “The 100%eBL goal is an important milestone for the shipping industry, paving the way for the digitization of the entire value chain. It will help reduce lead times and costs, improve customer satisfaction and achieve CSR goals. As a company committed to a reliable, transparent and sustainable supply chain, CMA CGM will play an active role in this initiative.”

Rolf Habben Jansen, CEO, Hapag-Lloyd: “We have been offering our customers electronic bills of lading since last year to simplify and streamline document handling for all stakeholders and to reduce our carbon footprint. The feedback from our customers has been very positive. The target of having 100% eBL by 2030 is an important part of digitalising global supply chains and will require a collective effort from the industry to make it a reality.”

Jeremy Nixon, CEO,ONE: “With digitisation gaining ground ever faster, it is important that the maritime industry continues to evolve and adapt by embracing new global standards and transaction efficiency. A significant acceleration in eBL usage will pave the way for ever greater interoperability across global supply chains. As ONE, we are pleased to be a key part of this and to provide overall a better customer service experience.”

Eric Hsieh, President, Evergreen Marine: “Evergreen is committed to the advantages offered by a universal eBL system —efficiency, innovation, reliability, sustainability. Each party will play a critical role in enabling the transition to digital trade documentation, and Evergreen is proud to be doing its part to help get us there. We’re very pleased to see DCSA members support this initiative that will bring tremendous benefits not just to container shipping, but to the entire supply chain and everyone who relies on international trade.”

Cheng-Mount Cheng, Chairman and CEO, Yang Ming: “Digitalising the bills of lading is an inevitable trend that will undoubtedly bring benefits to the supply chain. However, the transformation requires the support from all stakeholders and carriers. Yang Ming recognises DCSA’s efforts to accelerate maritime digitisation, and is proud to be a part of the 100% eBL goal.”

Kim, Kyung Bae, President and CEO, HMM: “I am pleased to join the collaborative effort on the pathway to the digitalization of the shipping industry. Adopting electronic bills of lading will be a significant milestone in improving efficiency, reducing costs and enhancing security in the transportation service. HMM will continue to team up with all industry stakeholders to promote the digitalization process.”

Eli Glickman, President and CEO, ZIM: “As an innovation-driven company we were very proud to pioneer electronic Bills of Lading as early as 2017, on our WAVE platform. Since then, we have come a long way, digitalising documentation for customers in many countries.Being part of this industry-wide effort to set the standards and reach 100% eBL is a natural outcome of our digitisation efforts, our ESG commitments and our core values.”

Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA) is a neutral, non-profit group founded by major ocean carriers to digitise and standardise the container shipping industry. With the mission of leading the industry towards systematic collaboration, DCSA drives initiatives to make container transportation services transparent, reliable, easy to use, secure and environmentally friendly. DCSA’s open source standards are developed based on input from DCSA member carriers, industry stakeholders and technology experts from other industries.

DCSA member carriers include: MSC, Maersk, CMA CGM, Hapag-Lloyd, ONE, Evergreen, Yang Ming, HMM and ZIM.

Source: will waters