The Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, has urged contractors of the Lekki Deep SeaportProject to speed up work to enable the government approve all the necessary processes before the next election.
Mr Amaechi made this known in a statement on Saturday while inspecting the ongoing construction of the Lekki Deep Seaport Project in Lagos.
He, however, commended the contractors for the progress of work done so far stating that in less than five months, a lot of civil work had been done.
“I want to congratulate you for the very huge progress. By the time we came here, there were no civil works; it was just pure sand. You have tried.
“I am suggesting that if you work day and night you will go far and complete the work before commissioning. If the President sees it, approval will be easier.
“You need to speed up the work so we can get approval from the government side before election, process of election will be completed in July.
“This is because by law, six months to election people start politics and if you wait till that time, you won’t meet anyone in the office,” he said.
Mr Amaechi, however, said that the port should be automated to avoid all forms of physical contact.
Speaking during the tour, the Chief Technical Officer, Lekki Port, Steven Heukelom, explained that construction work on the project was on course and as scheduled.
He noted that dredging and reclamation works had reached 89.93 per cent completion, Quay Wall 85.65 per cent completion, Breakwater 79.66 per cent completion, and the landside infrastructure development 67.82 per cent completion.
He added that this brings total works carried out on the project to approximately 80 per cent completion stage.
Mr Heukelom also informed the minister that work had commenced on the marine services jetty, which the NPA would use to carry out their marine services obligation.
He commended the Acting Managing Director, Mohammed Bello-Koko, for the support and partnership in preparing the port to start operations.
Mr Bello-Koko reaffirmed the agency’s readiness to provide marine services for the port’s operations.
To this end, he disclosed that NPA was procuring tug boats and other necessary infrastructure for the smooth take-off of the Port.
In his remarks, the Chief Operating Officer of Lekki Port, Laurence Smith, reaffirmed the company’s commitment to delivering the project by the fourth quarter of 2022.
He noted that the EPC Contractor, China Habour Engineering LFTZ Enterprise, was working day and night to make this commitment a reality.
Mr Smith expressed confidence that the Port, upon completion, would be a world-class port and would become a regional distribution and transhipment hub for the African region.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Lekki Port is being developed by Tolaram and China Harbour Engineering Company.
The Lagos State Government and NPA are also shareholders in the project company.
The port is scheduled to start port operations by the end of 2022.
Former SpaceX engineers banded together to create a new startup looking to make electric and autonomous railway vehicles to revolutionize rail-based freight transport. They have a big task ahead of them.
The railway business is a tough one to break into. It’s a static oligopoly dominated by a few giants sitting on their railroad rights and making minimal investments to maximize profits.
Over the years, railroads were privatized in North America, and the businesses have no issues closing smaller railroads. They often close smaller railroads when they can’t find a way to make money off of them and focus on the most profitable routes with longer trains – often as long as 3 miles.
Despite those issues, freight trains have remained a good solution since they are about four times as efficient as trucks. But, with trucks expected to become electric and autonomous in the coming years, they are going to close the efficiency gap with trains.
Now Matt Soule, a former long-time SpaceX engineer, has partnered with former colleagues at Elon Musk’s space company to launch a new startup, Parallel Systems, developing new electric and autonomous vehicles.
The company just raised $50 million in a Series A funding round and came out of stealth mode with an article in Fortune. The idea is to create small autonomous electric-powered rail vehicles that can enable a different way to use railroads.
As for the vehicle itself, Parallel Systems vehicles can carry 128,000 pounds, which is more than twice the capacity of a semi-truck. The vehicles have a range of 500 miles on tracks and can charge in about an hour.
Visit Elecktrek’s webpage for the full article and related media.
For years, Amazon has been quietly chartering private cargo ships, making its own containers, and leasing planes to better control the complicated shipping journey of an online order. Now, as many retailers panic over supply chain chaos, Amazon’s costly early moves are helping it avoid the long wait times for available dock space and workers at the country’s busiest ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.
“Los Angeles, there’s 79 vessels sitting out there up to 45 days waiting to come into the harbor,” ocean freight analyst Steve Ferreira told CNBC in November. “Amazon’s latest venture that I’ve been tracking in the last two days, it waited two days in the harbor.”
By chartering private cargo vessels to carry its goods, Amazon can control where its goods go, avoiding the most congested ports.
“Who else would think of putting something going into an obscure port in Washington, and then trucking it down to L.A.? Most people are thinking, well, just bring the ship into L.A. But then you’re experiencing those two-week and three-weeks delay. So Amazon’s really taken advantage of some of the niche strategies I believe that the market needs to employ,” Ferreira said.
Still, Amazon has seen a 14% rise in out-of-stock items and an average price increase of 25% since January 2021, according to e-commerce management platform CommerceIQ.
“The consumer has been feeling price increases in everything that they’re purchasing,” said Margaret Kidd, Supply Chain & Logistics Technology program director at the University of Houston. “Ultimately, when there’s an increase in the cost of transportation, it gets passed down to the consumer.”
It’s even taking control at the first step of the shipping journey by making its own 53-foot cargo containers in China. Containers are in short supply, with long wait times and prices surging from less than $2,000 before the pandemic to $20,000 today.
“Amazon has produced probably 5,000 to 10,000 of these containers over the last two years I’ve been tracking it,” Ferreira said. “When they bring these containers onto U.S. soil, once they unload them, guess what? They get to be used in the domestic system and the rail system. They don’t have to return them to Asia like everyone else does.”
A cargo vessel called the Star Lygra called at the Port of Houston on October 5, 2021, filled with Amazon containers.
“By creating their own containers, they are essentially guaranteeing that equipment is going to be available for them,” said Lauren Beagen, maritime lawyer and founder of Squall Strategies. She was working at the Federal Maritime Commission when Amazon first registered with the agency in 2015, the first indication it was exploring its own ocean freight business.
Then in 2017, Amazon started quietly operating as a global freight forwarder through a Chinese subsidiary, helping move goods across the ocean for its Chinese sellers who pay to be part of the Fulfilled by Amazon program. Internally, Amazon dubbed this project “Dragon Boat.”
“They are doing over 10,000 containers per month of the small- and medium-sized Chinese exporters. Amazon’s volume as an ocean vendor — that’s right, you heard me correct, they’re considered an ocean vendor — would rank them in the top five transportation companies in the Trans Pacific,” Ferreira said.
“The real purpose of these vessels when they were built was not containers. It was really lumber, chemicals, grain, agricultural products. But because of the ingenuity and creativity and lack of space, Amazon and many other smart people have quickly figured out how to convert some of these multipurpose vessels to container,” Ferreira said.
For some of the highest-margin goods, Amazon is avoiding ports altogether by reportedly leasing at least ten long-haul planes that can get smaller amounts of cargo directly from China to the U.S. much faster. One of the converted Boeing 777 planes can carry 220,000 pounds of cargo. According to capacity estimates from Ocean Audit, the small 1,000-container freighters being chartered by Amazon and others can hold 180 times that, with the biggest cargo ships carrying more than 3,600 times what the planes can hold.
Another strain on the supply chain is manpower.
“We’ve been hearing a lot about the great resignation, with a lot of jobs going open and unfilled. So I think companies are looking to get very creative in attracting labor. It might be signing bonuses, higher pay,” said Judy Whipple, supply chain management professor at Michigan State University.
To fight the worker shortage — and a reputation for relentless workload and breakneck speed — Amazon says it’s offering sign-on bonuses of up to $3,000 to all the 150,000 seasonal workers it’s hiring this year. Last year, it hired 100,000 seasonal workers.
“That 50,000 increase in employees this year over last year is probably people to do the unloads. They’ve got these containers coming in at the last second, man, they want to unload those goods and get them on the shelves in the fulfillment centers as quickly as possible,” said John Esborn, who used to run logistics operations for Wayfair and is now the head of international transportation for Amazon aggregator Perch.
The seasonal workers are unloading and loading, picking and packing at more than 250 new facilities Amazon says it’s opened in the U.S. just in 2021 — a clear indication that it planned far ahead for the final bottleneck in the supply chain backlog: warehouse capacity.
Watch the video to learn more about all the bold and costly ways Amazon is avoiding the worst of the supply chain crisis this holiday season.
U.S. e-commerce grew by 32.4% in 2020—the highest annual growth rate in over two decades. Such rapid growth has resulted in many more goods being imported, leaving America’s western ports completely overwhelmed.
To help you understand the scale of this issue, we’ve visualized the number of containers waiting at sea in relation to the Port of Los Angeles’ daily processing capacity.
Stuck at Sea
As of November 2, 2021, the Port of Los Angeles reported that it had 93 vessels waiting in queue. Altogether, these ships have a maximum carrying capacity of roughly 540,000 containers (commonly measured in twenty-foot equivalent units or TEUs).
On the other side of the equation, the port processed 468,059 import containers in September (the most recent data at the time of writing). Because the port does not operate on Sundays, we can conclude that the port can load roughly 18,000 containers each day.
That capacity seems unlikely to reduce the congestion. Over a two-week timeframe in September, 407,695 containers arrived at the Port of Los Angeles, which averages to around 29,000 containers arriving each day…
Trade solutions multinational DP World has completed the first transit import through the DP World Maputo port, in Mozambique, to DP World Komatipoort, in South Africa.
This is a significant milestone as it demonstrates that the Maputo port can be seamlessly used as a gateway to South Africa, the company says.
International container imports landed in the Maputo port and destined for the South African hinterland can be moved under bond to Komatipoort where full customs clearance can be provided and made ready for delivery across South Africa.
“The Komatipoort facility as a bonded container depot is a game changer for the Maputo Corridor. The success of the trial brings DP World a step closer to enabling a more cost effective, seamless and efficient user experience for our local customers and enhances trade linkages for countries in the Southern African region,” DP World Maputo CEO Christian Roeder says.
Currently, in South Africa, 69% of maritime imports are transported through the Port of Durban. Local customers now have the option to consider using the Maputo port as a gateway to transport their international freight to Komatipoort where it can be cleared more easily and efficiently for customers based in and around Gauteng.
DP World Komatipoort has a full-service offering and links via the Maputo Corridor to DP World Maputo’s modern and efficient container terminal where there is no vessel and port congestion, as well as fixed berthing windows available to major shipping lines, which provides customers with transport savings and avoids delays for consignees in Mpumalanga, Limpopo and Gauteng.
Once a shipment is retrieved at the DP World Maputo port, the organisation handles the entire supply chain process from there to Komatipoort without delay and beyond to various areas in the hinterland. While the cost of this service varies per user, the service is estimated to be equivalent in costs or cheaper compared to traditional routing through Durban.
However, it is more efficient, especially for the northern areas of the country, DP World note.
MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company, a global leader in container shipping and logistics, is officially introducing the electronic bill of lading (eBL) for its customers around the world, following a successful pilot phase, using a solution on an independent blockchain platform WAVE BL. The eBL enables shippers and other key supply chain stakeholders to receive and transmit the bill of lading document electronically, without any change or disruption to day-to-day business operations.
WAVE BL is a blockchain-based system that uses distributed ledger technology to ensure that all parties involved in a cargo shipment booking can issue, transfer, endorse and manage documents through a secure, decentralised network. Users can issue all originals, negotiable or non-negotiable, and exchange them via a direct, encrypted, peer-to-peer transmission. It’s also possible for users to amend documents. WAVE BL’s communication protocol is approved by the International Group of Protection & Indemnity Clubs, and meets the highest industry standards for security and privacy.
“MSC has chosen WAVE BL because it is the only solution that mirrors the traditional paper-based process that the shipping and cargo transportation industry is used to,” says André Simha, Global Chief Digital & Information Officer at MSC. “It provides a digital alternative to all the possibilities available with traditional print documents, just much faster and more secure.”
The WAVE BL platform can be used free of charge throughout 2021 for exporters, importers and traders. Users only pay for issuing the original documents, and they do not need to invest in any IT infrastructure or make operational changes in order to use the service. They can simply sign up via MSC’s website: www.msc.com/eBL.
Building on the TradeLens network connectivity Youredi has provided since 2018, 3PLs, shippers and cargo owners can now use their software integration services to connect quickly and flexibly to the TradeLens platform. The Youredi Integration service, is an offering that integrates seamlessly and easily with a wide variety of TMS, ERPs and other supply chain and logistics applications, whether on premise or cloud-based.
Permissioned data sharing across the maritime industry, improving the speed of data connectivity between different stakeholders, plus the need to digitalize and automate workflow processes has been a pain point for the industry for decades.
Youredi will support BCOs, 3PLs, carriers, freight forwarders, ports and terminals, authorities, customs brokers, and any other stakeholders to connect with the TradeLens platform rapidly with a predictable cost, effort and time commitment. Connecting different stakeholders with the platform will create a more transparent container shipping industry in which all parties can collaborate and trust each other.
The Youredi solution takes care of the data translation, so you can always send and receive data in your preferred data standard or format. The solution can work both with structured (rich data) and unstructured (PDFs, scans, images) data. Whenever required, Youredi can also provide data validation and data enrichment logic.
South Korean container shipping line HMM has has completed its fleet of mega-ships with the unveiling of the 24,000 TEU HMM St Petersburg.
The announcement marks the end of a two-year journey for HMM to provide “efficient and stable services” by using larger containerships. In an online update the carrier said all 12 of the vessels will be deployed on the Asia-Europe service.
The HMM St Petersburg was built by Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI) and delivered on September 11. Five of the vessels were built by SHI with the other seven by fellow Korean shipbuilder Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME).
Additionally, it will receive eight 16,000 TEU containerships from Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), due to be delivered in the second quarter of 2021. This will take its new fleet to 20.
The 12 24,000 TEU vessels have been fitted with scrubbers and an optimised hull design that cuts emissions and increases fuel efficiency.
The first vessel of the mega-ship fleet, the HMM Algeciras was unveiled in April 2020 and remains the largest in the world.
South Korea’s maritime industry, in particular its shipbuilding sector, has suffered substantially since Hanjin Shipping went bankrupt in 2017.
Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) has announced it will accelerate efforts to promote an electronic Bill of Lading (e-B/L) across the maritime industry in response to the crisis brought on by COVID-19.
In a statement, the carrier said it has been running a pilot scheme alongside its third-party blockchain platform WAVE to introduce the e-BL in India since late-2019.
MSC’s customers continued to ship goods by using what it called the “reliable and secure digital platform for the fast transfer of trade-related documents”, even through throughout the pandemic, the company said.
The pandemic caused a drop in TEU volume across the world but as China has resumed exports, congestion has hurt port operations, particularly in India.
The problem has been exacerbated by lockdown measures forcing people to work remotely which has led to vital documents such as the Bill of Lading (BL) being incomplete.
To mitigate this problem, MSC has said it will offer the WAVE e-BL solution to streamline affected operations and ensure continuity of service.
In the pre-COVID, paper-based process, it would take days for the BL to travel from origin to destination, physically changing hands several times along the way.
“We have had situations where couriers were unable to deliver documents between ports, trade offices and banks due to quarantine measures,” relates Capt. Deepak Tewari, Managing Director at MSC India.
“WAVE mirrors the paper-based process that the shipping and cargo transportation industry is used to, only without physical couriers.
“Thus, it’s an ideal solution to implement at a time when our customers need to rapidly adjust their processes, as the learning curve is quite low.” he adds.
Captain Deepak Tewari, MSC, also commented: “We have been working with WAVE on introducing and piloting an e-BL solution since 2019. We ran successful pilot projects with some of our customers last year, where we saw first-hand the benefits which arise from digitalising this part of the process.
“When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we decided to accelerate our roll-out and offer the e-B/L solution to our broader base of customers.”
Gadi Ruschin, CEO at WAVE, comments: “Our mission since founding WAVE has been to transform the efficiency and security of international trade documentation through our robust digitisation protocol.
“We now see ourselves as ‘mission critical’ to ensuring trade can continue as physical movement of people and the paper they carry has been shuttered across the world. It couldn’t come at a more critical time as countries rely on trade to fight COVID-19 and save their economies.
“We launched this unique onboarding effort to help MSC swiftly onboard stakeholders and navigate the challenges while preparing the carrier to flourish once conditions normalise.”
MSC claimed its e-BL solution can cut BL transit time from days to minutes, without the need for physical contact. The e-B/L is sent using WAVE’s blockchain-based system, which uses distributed ledger technology to ensure that all parties can issue, transfer, endorse and manage trade-related documents through a secure, decentralised network.
The new container terminal at the Namibian Port of Walvis Bay is now fully operational, according to a report by the African Development Bank (ADB).
In a statement, the ADB said the terminal was built on constructed on 40 hectares of land reclaimed from the ocean by China Harbor Engineering Company Ltd (CHEC) as part of a project worth $300 million.
It will, according the the bank, turn Walvis Bay into becoming a logistics hub for southern Africa to meet the growing regional demand for freight and provide maritime access for landlocked countries of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).
The African Development Bank provided a ZAR 2,982 million ($178 million) loan representing over 70% of the project funding.
The works included the dredging over 3.9 million cubic metres of sand, used partly for the reclamation, construction of a 600-metre quay wall, the laying of 304,000 square metres of paved surface and the construction of a workshop and administrative buildings.
It also entailed the installation of four ship-to-shore (STS) cranes, the construction of a one-kilometre road, the laying of 2.3 km of rail lines, and the installation of service networks. The facility’s electricity supply was also successfully upgraded, the report noted.
“Overall, the project has fully achieved its goals,” the report said, increasing the terminal’s capacity from 355,000 TEUs (20-foot equivalent unit) to 750,000 TEUs yearly. It has also reduced vessel waiting time to less than 8 hours and cut container transit time from 14.5 days to 9.5 days.
Expanded activities required the training of seven pilots and 26 ship-to-shore crane operators, including one woman.
The demand for services from the port of Walvis Bay has increased by about 8% following the commissioning of the new terminal, the report notes. Cargo volumes, revenues and income from other services (maritime, port, berth and light dues, and other storage and handling fees) are expected to increase by at least 8% in 2020 and 2021. After that, growth should reach 5% yearly the report projects.
The project completion reporting team was led by Richard Malinga, Bank Principal Transport Engineer and Task Manager for the project.
The Walvis Bay expansion aligns with the Bank’s High-5 strategic priorities, including promoting the integration of Africa.
To further assist small and medium sized businesses with the complexity of managing their supply chains, Maersk is launching Maersk Flow – a digital platform which provides customers and their partners with everything they need to take control of their supply chain, from factory to market.
The solution enables transparency in critical supply chain processes and ensures that the flow of goods and documents is executed as planned. It also reduces manual work and costly mistakes, while empowering logistics professionals with all the current and historical data they need to sustainably improve their supply chain.
The daily life of small and medium sized businesses is increasingly global, complex and fast-paced. Every day thousands of products are moving through the supply chain, on multiple carriers, coming from and reaching many supply chain partners and customers. And for many of these companies this complexity is managed fully manually via spreadsheets, emails and phone calls, which despite lots of hard work is leading to reduced visibility and control – and ultimately higher costs or lost sales. With Maersk Flow these companies will be able to take control of their supply chains.
Maersk Flow further extends Maersk’s customer reach and strengthens the company’s position as an industry leader in digital solutions.
Maersk Flow facilitates the uninterrupted flow of information, cargo, and documentation to empower you and your partners to take the right action at the right time. Its unique features give you convenience and bring coherence to your everyday operations, so that you can optimise your supply chain logistics and refocus your resources on delivering value to your customers. The tool will assist with –
A.P. Moller – Maersk will acquire Sweden-based KGH Customs Services for 2.6 billion Swedish crowns ($281 million), the company announced Monday.
KGH specializes in trade and customs management services in Europe across multiple freight modes. The deal adds to Maersk’s service offerings as the carrier looks to expand beyond ocean shipping and position itself as a full-service supply chain solutions provider.
“There are no end-to-end solutions without customs clearance,” Vincent Clerc, CEO of ocean and logistics at A.P. Moller – Maersk, said in a statement. “With KGH, we will not only be able to strengthen our capabilities within customs services and related consultancy, but also reach more of our customers in Europe through a larger geographical footprint and digital solutions that will enhance our ability to meet our customers´ end-to-end supply chain needs.”
Maersk has been open about its ambitions to expand its business into other parts of the supply chain, positing its logistics sector growth as a main business objective.
“Focus remains on developing our end-to-end offering through an even stronger Ocean product while expanding and scaling our logistics and services portfolio,” Maersk wrote in its latest annual report.
Maersk began outlining its end-to-end ambitions in 2016 and has taken multiple steps toward realizing its goal in the form of deals and reorganization. Last year, Maersk closed a deal to acquire the New Jersey-based customs broker Vandegrift. And in 2018, it announced plans to merge its operations with Damco.
Maersk sees its ocean business as the “strong foundation” for the rest of its logistics offerings, and new products will be important in adding to its end-to-end logistics offerings, the company explained in its latest annual report.
“The next phase in the strategy is about growing the business by innovating existing products combined with selling landside logistics products to our existing customers – as well as growth in our Terminals & Towage business,” the annual report reads.
Maersk has specifically said M&A would be one tool it would use to achieve its end-to-end initiative, highlighting landside logistics as one space where deals could happen in its annual report. And when the company brought on a new CFO, Patrick Jany, earlier this year, it specifically highlighted his experience with M&A.
Last year, Maersk became the first ocean carrier to offer digital ocean customs clearance, according to a press release. The offering allows shippers to upload declaration paperwork and the carrier can send a notification when the shipment clears customs, according to a video explaining the offering.
At maximum capacity, the ship carries slightly more 20-foot containers than its predecessor MSC Gülsün: 23,964 TEU versus 23,756 TEU. During this maiden voyage, HMM Algeciras will have 19,621 TEU on board – itself a record number.
The Korean vessel was completed at Daewoo Shipping & Marine Engineering’s Okpo shipyard on 24 April. It is some 400 metres long and 61 metres wide. For further information about Algeciras, we refer you to the video at “Biggest Container Ship in the World 2020”.
HMM is the new name for the South Korean ship-owner Hyundai Merchant Marine, the ninth-largest container shipping line worldwide. The company has ordered another eleven 24,000-TEU vessels in this class.
Transit cargo destined for Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan will be transported by Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) to Naivasha then to Tororo Kampala from June 1st, the government has said.
Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said the move was arrived at during a meeting with his counterparts from the three countries as a key measure to curb cross border transmissions of COVID-19.
“All transit cargo/containers transported on SGR will be armed only at the Inland Container Depot (ICD) AT Naivasha to be tracked through the Regional Electronic Cargo Tracking System,” a part of the statement read.
Macharia further pointed out that all cargo railed to the Inland Container Depot at Naivasha will be collected by trucks to the partner states via Busia or Malaba.
He however, pointed out that fuel products will be transported by pipeline to Kisumu and thereafter through Lake Victoria to Port Bell or Jinja in Uganda.
Cases of coronavirus among truck drivers who transport cargo across East African member states have tested positive with high numbers prompting Kenya to close its borders with Somalia and Tanzania.
Kenya has subsequently banned any truck driver who turn positive at the border from corssing into the country, with Tanzania having adopted a similar approach lately.
Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said the development explained why President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered the mandatory screening of truck drivers at border posts before clearance into the country.
Kenya also closed its borders with Somalia, following increased coronavirus cases in Wajir which borders Somalia.
Since the border closure, Tanzanian government officials in Arusha and other border towns have publicly protested, accusing Kenya of discriminating their truck drivers.
Martin Shigella, the Tanga Regional Commissioner was blunt last week, declaring that no Kenyan truck driver will be allowed to cross into Tanzania, accusing them of exporting COVID-19 to the country which is largely seen as the weak link in managing coronavirus in the region, and the world. He also warned Tanzanians against buying goods in Kenya.
But on Wednesday, President John Pombe Magufuli announced on a tour to Singinda region, that “COVID-19 pandemic will not threaten our association with Kenya.”
He said he had held talks with his Kenyan counterpart Kenyatta, and agreed to have their ministers resolve the matter.
“Our economies need each other, our onions are sold in Kenya and Kenya exports milk and other items here,” he said, rooting for a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
But for as much as shipping has changed over the decades, not much about the bill of lading (BL) has. Today, it’s pretty much the same often-paper, always-time-consuming document it ever was.
That’s why driving an eBill standard is largely considered the Holy Grail of global trade. Succeed in that, and partners up and down the supply chain would benefit from the days and weeks that paper BLs add to the process as they are printed, pouched, messengered, lost, found and waited upon.
It’s ironic because there isn’t a single aspect of the BL that couldn’t be done better digitally. To demonstrate, let’s dive into the essence of these documents and the challenges that remain to making them digital.
How does an original paper bill of lading work?
Once the vessel departs, an original BL can be issued by the ocean carrier. After the shipper endorses the original bill, it is couriered to the buyer who then needs to surrender it back to the carrier at destination as part of the cargo release process.
It sounds simple enough, but along the way the BL impacts many other processes and actions. Even before issuance, the time-consuming process from a shipping instruction to the issuance of a verified BL, many iterations and changes can occur to get the BL into an approved state.
The BL, and its critical data fields are required for customs clearance, letter of credit, change of title and other processes. One delay in any of these can result in costly extra charges.
The functions of a bill of lading were made to be done electronically
In oftentimes convoluted international shipments, the BL is the legal go-to document that facilitates negotiation, lending and risk reduction by performing three key functions:
1. It is evidence of a contract of carriage
2. It confirms receipt of goods
3. It serves as the title to the goods
So, can eBill perform these functions while maintaining the integrity and legality that’s required? The P&I Clubs think so. Today’s top eBill solutions meet these challenges through rule frameworks and advanced security measures — all while providing significant cost and time savings.
eBills can play a pivotal role — and a digital role
Carriers issue the BL, but they rely on information from shippers which may change multiple times during the booking and shipper’s instruction processes. Electronic features like structured documents make creation, approval, distribution, tracking — everything — easier than paper.
This benefits not only the shippers but the carriers, buyers, sellers and banks without having the need to continue to print out paper — which defeats the purpose
Digital does the different types of bill of lading better
There are many types of BL, reflecting the complexities of international trade. Eliminating paper is only the beginning of the ways eBills can help streamline processes related to the two main categories of BL:
Sea Waybills are sometimes referred to as “Express Release.” They have a named consignee on them but are issued without any original documents that have to be presented for the release of the cargo. Non-negotiable and non-transferable, they are usually used in three cases:
Intra-company shipments between divisions located in different countries
Shipments when no negotiations take place between the seller and the consignee
Instances when the shipper doesn’t have to submit an original BL to any party in order to secure their payment
Original BLs have different forms that all hinge on the issuance of original BL documents in some way.
· Order BLs are the most common type of BL. They enable delivery of the cargo to be made “To Order” to the bonafide holder of the BL. These types of BL are negotiable and often linked to letter of credit transactions. Often banks must verify and endorse the original BL before the cargo can be released to the buyer.
Straight BLs stipulate that the cargo may only be released to the specified consignee and only upon the surrender of an original BL.
Open BLs are negotiable and transferable. The name of the consignee can be changed with the consignee’s signature and transferred — often multiple times.
Going Digital assists in filling out the bill of lading
With shippers providing the majority of the information for a BL, completeness and correctness is crucial. eBills help guide the way. If shippers can provide bill of lading information digitally, there’s less risk of keying errors. Form fields and autofill features all speed the process and lead to time savings.
One of the challenges of going paperless with BLs from the very beginning is standards. Adhering to set data standards makes information useful for different parties within organizations and multiple supply chain partners and it enables seamless workflows from automation. Unfortunately, standards are far from being standard today.
Digital makes the information included in a BL more useful
Users look to the bill of lading as an infallible source of essential and comprehensive information like names and addresses, purchase orders or reference numbers, special delivery instructions, pickup date, description of items, packaging type, NMFC freight class and DOT hazmat designations.
eBills of lading can make this information highly transparent to supply chain partners who can use it. But like many of the benefits of eBills, this transparency hinges on adoption — if all the participants of the supply chain are rowing together digitally, it works. If not, it just makes for another manual process that may end up being even more work than paper.
With its centrality to supply chains and essentiality to digitizing global trade, it’s easy to understand why the industry has its sights set on digitizing this important document. But acceptance of the eBill remains both the goal and the greatest challenge today. That’s why getting the eBill to catch on will require successfully digitizing the entire process for eBills, too.
TradeLens, with its relationships with the world’s largest ocean carriers, is in a unique position to explore the digitization of this process at an unprecedented scale. Within an ecosystem where there’s already widespread acceptance, the potential of the eBill could finally be revealed.