Use of Electronic Bill of Lading during COVID

With the onset of COVID, the digital age was pushed to the limit with the need for digital technology.  More and more people were forced to work from home which led to led to online shopping which led to a record level increase of global trade. This in turn also highlighted issues in supply chain, one such in shipping being the lack of electronic bill of lading documents in many countries which caused delays in global trade and supply chain movements.

With COVID, there were numerous travel restrictions set in place, and various countries were not prepared for such lockdown proceedings and took longer to adapt as it did not have the necessary processes in place. For instance, in the logistics and shipping industry, the Bill of Lading document is an extremely commercial document is an essential document needed in fulfilling supply chain-based functions as follows;

  1. Evidence based Contract of Carriage
  2. Receipt of Goods
  3. Document of titles to Goods

Due to the physical restriction placed due to COVID , there was no way for the original bill of lading documents to exchange hands at the offices at customer/ carriers’ offices which caused many delays in global trade/supply chain. This in turn meant in turn that the delivery of cargo was heavily impacted in a rolling manner and additional costs such as demurrage/detentions, storage and other costs were added on which would be incurred by the final customer as well.

Thus, the need for electronic bill of lading was enforced in the last three years, though the rules for the Electronic Bills of Lading were adopted by the Comite Maritime International (CMI) in 1990, there have been many countries that have been slower to come on board due to budgetary and slower digitization policies in various parts of the world.