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THE bill of lading (B/L) has long played a central role in efficient and effective communication across complex supply chains, serving as a document of title, contract of carriage, and receipt for goods, reports Newport Beach, California's Global Trade magazine.

But despite its importance, the B/L has largely remained paper-based due to various reasons highlighted by stakeholders such as bankers, freight forwarders, carriers and shippers.The reliance on paper for B/L transactions leads to time-consuming and expensive processes that are not environmentally friendly. Moreover, they can cause bottlenecks in supply chains, leading to cargo delays at ports when crucial documents are missing or not processed in a timely manner

An effective solution to these challenges is the adoption of an electronic bill of lading (eBL), say advocatesBy leveraging digital technology and adopting standardized practices, eBLs can significantly improve information exchange in global trade. They enable faster data sharing, reduce costs, promote environmental sustainability, and prevent paperwork-related delays, they say.

Recognising the potential benefits of digitalisation, the Future International Trade (FIT) Alliance was established, comprising organisations like BIMCO, DCSA, FIATA, ICC and SWIFT.