The Port of Rotterdam Authority, Blocklab, the Dutch Blockchain Coalition, Rabobank, Hoogwegt, various Dutch governmental organisations and their counterparts from Singapore are working together on the Global Showcase Digital Transfer of Ownership of the Bill of Lading.
This project aims ultimately to create an entirely paperless and legally recognised transfer of ownership based on creating a tradable digital bill of lading (e-BL) combined with radical digitalisation and automation of the requisite document flow and the financing of the underlying commodities. The Global Showcase can contribute significantly to this, as can the legal track where work is being done on embedding the e-BL in law.
In the near future, the e-BL will be able to create major savings in logistics chains, expand world trade and strengthen the competitive position of the Netherlands. According to calculations by the Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA), a take-up of just 50% for the e-BL could save the maritime industry alone as much as $4 billion annually. The paper-based process is far from secure.
Many fraud cases involving forged ownership documents such as the bill of lading and acknowledgement of receipt are barely noted in the media. In cases where that does happen, hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars are involved. The guaranteed source, integrity, ownership and origin of the e-BL make enforcement simpler.
Using the e-BL will make further digital innovation possible, which is very much needed. The limitations of the current paper process became painfully clear during the COVID-19 pandemic: the financing of international trade is floating on an ocean of paperwork. Bills of lading, letters of credit, acknowledgements of receipt... these are all paper documents that are checked by humans for authenticity and that are physically transferred from one owner to the new recipient. The consequence was containers stuck on the quaysides
because couriers were unable to pick up the requisite documentation and because documents could not be sent as there were hardly any flights.