The Bill of Lading (BL) is the most important transport document in international trade. Traditionally, the shipping industry has relied heavily on physical paper documents and manual document handling, but now we are moving to a digital future with the electronic bill of lading (eBL).
MSC is an industry leader regarding eBL adoption. We started with pilot projects in 2019, moved to a global launch in 2021, and now have hundreds of thousands of eBLs transferred using the MSC eBL platform. This document represents the critical first step to the future through more efficient, secure, and sustainable paperless trade.
MSC's commitment alongside DCSA
We are committed to convert in our respective carrier organizations 50% of original bill of lading activities to digital within five years, and 100% by 2030. This represents a significant change for our industry, and we do not take this commitment lightly. We are convinced that the benefits it will bring to customers and global trade are too important to ignore. We ask that all parties involved – shippers, forwarders, governments, financial institutions, and insurance agencies – work together to make this commitment a reality.
>> View the full commitment statement or visit the DCSA website
The digitalization of eBL and other trade documents holds great potential to remove friction in international trade, to the benefit of our customers’ experience and the environment. When we look at other industries, digitalization has made an immense impact.
Alongside the other members of the DCSA MSC will work to make this the future of our industry. There is no success if it is not a collective work to achieve 100% compliance and adoption based on the DCSA standards.
For widespread adoption at the industry level, eBL solutions need to be interoperable. That’s why the implementation of the DCSA digital standards is so important, and why we stand with the DCSA and broader industry to achieve 100% standardized and DCSA compliant eBL adoption by 2023.
As a founding member of DCSA, MSC has actively contributed to the development of the eBL open-source standards, and we’ve always stood behind DCSA’s mission to make container shipping more transparent, reliable, secure and sustainable.
Documentation for a single shipment (which could be just part of the contents of one container) can require up to 50 sheets of paper that are exchanged with up to 30 different stakeholders.
Ocean carriers issue around 45 million bills of lading a year. McKinsey analysis indicates that the bill of lading accounts for between 10 and 30 percent of total trade documentation costs.
Switching away from the transfer of physical paper bills of lading could save $6.5 billion in direct costs for stakeholders, and enable $30-40 billion in annual global trade growth.
Currently, only 2% of containers are physically inspected by customs. With accurate and timely delivery of data, such as through a universal eBL, customs officials would be able to inspect cargo data before a shipment arrives to identify potential targets for inspection. In this way, a McKinsey study predicts illegal trade could be reduced by 10-15% globally.
Paperless trade enabled by 100% eBL adoption can save 28,000 trees per year, equivalent to around 39 football fields of forest.
MSC eBL: the story so far
MSC was one of the earliest adopters of the eBL. Our MSC eBL solution was launched in April 2021 after a two-year pilot project in India and at a perfect time in the industry considering the delayed delivery of paper BLs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Offered via the blockchain-based WAVE BL platform, MSC eBL is fully secure. Documents are encrypted on upload and data is secured using automatic verification and authentication, so there is no risk of documents ending up in the wrong hands. Blockchain-based transfer of data also helps to eliminate the risks of document forgery, theft or loss, as compared to the transportation of paper-based BLs.