Archives For Bill of lading

ZIM lines

ZIM, an Israeli container shipping company, has successfully completed a blockchain document exchange pilot for paperless bills of lading using blockchain-based software from Wave to send a document that acknowledged receipt of cargo for shipment.

Wave connects all members of the supply chain to a decentralized network and allows them a direct exchange of files.

During the trial, all participants issued, transferred and received original electronic documents using Wave’s application, which manages ownership of documents on the blockchain to eliminate disputes, forgeries and unnecessary risks.

The containers, shipped by Sparx Logistics from China to Canada, were delivered to the consignees “without a hitch”, reported ZIM in an announcement about its breakthrough.

ZIM said that it is “convinced” that the blockchain technology and the Wave application is “the solution that will drive the trade to the digital era”.

The new blockchain-based system developed by Wave uses distributed ledger technology to ensure that all parties can issue, transfer, endorse and manage shipping and trade related documents through a secure decentralized network.

Wave’s application is free for shippers, Importers and Traders and requires no IT or operational changes.

Source: Port Technology (20 Nov, 2017 )

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BIMCO E-Bill of LadingPaper bills of lading have been used throughout the world to document and effect international trade for centuries. Yet whilst the world has become increasingly digitalised the paper bill of lading has, on the whole, remained a constant feature of global trade. Its continued use is mainly due to its combination of three legal characteristics that it has developed over time: (i) it is a receipt of the goods carried; (ii) it provides evidence of the terms of the contract of carriage; and (iii) it is a document of title to the goods. It is these characteristics that have, until relatively recently, foiled attempts to replace the paper bill of lading with an electronic equivalent. However, with the inclusion of an electronic bills of lading clause in BIMCO’s NYPE 2015 time charter form, as well as the International Group of P&I Clubs’ approval of the coverage of three electronic trading systems, the dominance of the paper bill of lading may well be coming to an end.

Reed Smith LLP Ship Law blog posts an interesting article in regard to change in law and the impact of e-commerce on bills of lading.

Issues with the paper system
Whilst the paper bill of lading has been used for centuries it is not without its faults, the principal problems being that:

  • Carriers are obliged to discharge the goods carried on production of an original bill of lading: this is particularly problematic today given both the speed of transport and the fact that the cargo may be sold multiple times during carriage. As a result of this the bill of lading is often not delivered to the consignee in time, and the carrier is often required to accept a letter of indemnity. This indemnity does not, however, remove the carriers’ liability under the bill of lading and creates an additional administrative burden and cost to the trade.
  • The paper system is hugely expensive (such cost is estimated to be between 5 – 10% of the value of the goods carried each year).
  • A paper bill of lading may be forged with relative ease and carriers are liable for misdelivery against a forged bill of lading.

Benefits of an electric bill
The electronic bill of lading or e-bill, in theory, addresses many of the flaws of the paper system, bringing with it a number of advantages:

  • It can be sent around the world instantaneously, hugely lowering the administrative burden of trade (especially where cargo is subject to multiple transfers of ownership during carriage).
  • Any amendments or corrections required can be made far more efficiently and cost effectively.
  • Electronic payment systems, and related advances in security, make an electronic system considerably more secure than its paper equivalent. This is obviously subject to cyber issues.

These benefits will cut the administrative costs of trade significantly and reduce, if not eradicate, situations where carriers discharge their cargo against letters of indemnity.

So why so slow on the uptake?
One of the main reasons the widespread use of the e-bill has been slow to proliferate stems from the fact that it is not treated in the same manner, legally, as its paper equivalent. Significantly:

  • A paper bill of lading is a document of title, enabling it to be negotiated and transferred as possession of the bill is evidence of title to the goods. This is not automatically the case at law with an e-bill.
  • The Hague Rules / Hague Visby Rules (HR / HVR) apply to a contract of carriage by reference to the bill of lading, or similar document of title, and it has been less clear whether they would apply to any electronic trading system used. The solution developed to these legal obstacles is essentially a multiparty contract. This takes the form of a set of rules to which users of an electronic trading system are all required to subscribe to use that system. Such rules then set out the specific form of electronic trading documentation to be used and that the consequences of using such documentation shall mirror the position at law as if they were paper bills of lading.

This, however, means that electronic trading systems such as BOLERO, which has been in existence since the 1990s, are only able to function between their members (i.e. those that have agreed to the uniform set of rules and systems that will govern their transactions). Where a member of an electronic trading system enters into a transaction with a non-member, the electronic system cannot be utilised and a paper bill of lading is issued. This feature has limited their growth, as electronic trading systems are only really effective once they have a large number of members, but are not cost-effective for traders to join until they have a large number of members.

The present situation
The benefits of electronic trading systems are particularly tangible to container carriers (as there is often a separate bill of lading for each container carried) and as such have been utilised by liner companies before wider adoption in the industry. However, the efficiencies of electronic trading systems are not confined to the container industry alone and with members of the largest trading companies, trade finance banks, mining companies and oil majors using such systems, it is clear that they are becoming increasingly prevalent in the shipping industry as a whole.

The growth of the use of electronic trading systems in the wider shipping industry is something that BIMCO, by including an e-bills clause in its latest iteration of the NYPE form, has also recognised. In sum the new clause provides that:

  • use of an electronic trading system is at charterers’ option;
  • owners shall subscribe to the system elected by charterers, provided such a system is approved by the International Group of P&I Clubs;
  • charterers shall pay any fees incurred by owners in subscribing to such elected system; and
  • charterers shall indemnify owners for any liabilities incurred arising from the use of the elected system, so long as such liability does not arise from owners’ negligence.

The International Group of P&I Clubs have now ‘approved’ three electronic trading systems (BOLERO, essDOCS and E-title). An ‘approved’ system is one that is found to replicate the legal characteristics of a paper bill (namely (i) as a receipt; (ii) a document of title; and (iii) a contract of carriage which incorporates the HR / HVR). This means that the International Group of P&I Clubs will provide cover for any liabilities arising under carriage covered by these three electronic trading systems (or any such other subsequently ‘approved’ system), provided that such liability would also have arisen under a paper bill. However, members should be advised that risks connected with the use of a non-approved electronic trading system will not be covered.

The use of an electronic trading system does, however, lead to other risks from things such as hacking, systems collapse, e-theft and viruses, none of which are traditionally covered by P&I clubs and would need to be insured separately. In this regard, essDOCS (which is now used throughout 71 countries by over 3,300 companies) has insurance cover of up to USD $20 million per electronic bill of lading for “eRisks” resulting from an electronic crime or electronic system failure.

With the rise in usage of electronic trading systems, the recent judgment in Glencore v MSC (albeit currently under appeal) provides a timely reminder that the release of cargo should only be made in accordance with the contract evidenced by the bill of lading, even where an electronic release system for cargo is being operated. In this instance cargo was released on presentation of a PIN, despite no provisions for this in the bill of lading, two of the released consignments of cargo were misappropriated and the carrier was held liable.

The future?
With the International Group of P&I Clubs’ approval of three electronic systems, the inclusion of an electronic bills of lading clause in BIMCO’s latest NYPE form and the proliferation of the use of electronic trading systems throughout the wider shipping industry, it is clear that the use of electronic trading systems is increasing. Whilst there is no doubt that we can expect teething problems as the industry continues to adapt to such electronic trading systems, and the cyber risks they may bring, it seems that the efficiencies are too great to be ignore. Source: Ship Law log / ReedSmith

BoLAn article about a collector of Bills of Lading can be found on the Hariesh Manaadiar’s very popular educational blog Shipping and Freight Resource. Follow the hyperlink below –

Source: A collection of Bills of Lading

City Deep Container Terminal (Transport World Africa)

City Deep Container Terminal (Transport World Africa)

The controversial Customs Control Bill adopted by Parliament’s finance committee on Wednesday includes a “fallback” provision allowing for a return to the current customs control system should the new one fail.

A similar clause was included in the law that introduced value-added tax in 1991, allowing for a legal alternative to be implemented quickly if things do not work out as planned.

The committee also adopted the Customs Duty Bill and the Customs and Excise Amendment Bill as part of a total revamp by the South African Revenue Service (SARS) of the customs system. Visit this link for access to the Bills and submissions to the parliamentary committee.

The Customs Control Bill has been highly contentious as it will fundamentally change the way imported goods are cleared and released. The Democratic Alliance and Business Unity SA (Busa) opposed the original proposals on the grounds that doing away with manifests in the operations of City Deep would threaten the inland terminal in Johannesburg. SARS disputed this but nevertheless amended the bill.

Busa’s Laurraine Lotter yesterday welcomed the inclusion of the fallback clause but said she would have to see the details of the amendments introduced by SARS before commenting.

The fallback provision — which will automatically lapse five years after the effective date of the legislation — was included to be on the safe side, although SARS does not expect the proposed system to fail. It consulted widely on the bill, sought legal opinions about the legality of its amended proposals and ultimately secured the support of ship operators and agents, freight forwarders and Transnet for the amendments.

Implementation could be delayed by 12 months to allow the trade sufficient time to prepare.

SARS chief legal and policy officer Kosie Louw assured the committee this week the existence of City Deep would not be jeopardised. He urged adoption of the new system of customs control, saying the authorities needed more detailed information about incoming cargo to clamp down on fraud and illegal imports.

In terms of the bill, the submission by shipping lines of a manifest that provides only a general description of cargo will be replaced by a clearance declaration. This must contain information on the tariff, value and origin of the goods, and be submitted by the importer (which can be held accountable for its veracity) three calendar days before arrival at the first place of entry into South Africa.

Penalties will be levied only if the clearance is not submitted within three working days after the arrival of the goods. Containers will be provisionally released before arrival of the goods at the first place of entry and finally released at the first point of entry. To allow for seamless movement of goods, shipping lines will still issue multimodal contracts and through bills of lading.

“The revised proposal provides certainty and predictability to role players in the supply chain regarding the movement of goods,” Mr Louw said.

He said the new system would allow customs officials to undertake documentary inspections earlier, mitigating delays. High-risk containers would be identified before arrival, detained on arrival and held at the inland terminal for inspection. Containers with no risk would be able to move “seamlessly” to the inland terminals.

Mr Louw submitted that the objections to the proposal — that it would require traders to change their sale contracts; that sellers would be reluctant to sell under the new terms; that importers would be affected; that carriers would no longer issue a bill of lading to internal terminals; and that it would give rise to delays and congestion at ports — were found to lack foundation by international trade law expert Prof Sieg Eiselen and two advocates.

He said the proposed system would lay a solid and predictable framework for a modernised system of customs control that balanced the need for trade facilitation with the need to prevent imports of illicit goods. The current system was governed by an outdated, 1960s law. Source: Business Day

Related articles

South African shippers take heart, this is a worldwide phenomenon. Check out the article below on how US shippers are addressing the issue.

Is there a foolproof method for importers or consignees to maintain confidentiality of identifying information listed on shipping manifests? Unfortunately, the short answer is “no.” While an importer or consignee may request that US Customs treat its identifying information as confidential, the infinite number of variations of this information (e.g., spelling of company name) precludes confidentiality for each possible variation.

There are, however, steps that importers and consignees can take to minimize risk in this area. Under federal law, the public may collect manifest data at every port of entry. Moreover, reporters may collect and publish names of importers from vessel manifest data unless an importer/shipper requests confidentiality. Specifically,

[a]n importer or consignee may request confidential treatment of its name and address contained in inward manifests, to include identifying marks and numbers. In addition, an importer or consignee may request confidential treatment of the name and address of the shipper or shippers to such importer or consignee. 19 CFR 103.31.

As many importers and consignees have learned, however, confidentiality is not assured even CBP grants such a request. A bill of lading may often contain a variant of a company name, and if that variant is not included on the confidentiality request, confidentiality will likely not apply to the information on that particular manifest. For example, if the John Smith Corporation requests confidentiality for its corporate name, and a manifest lists “J. Smith Corporation” or “John Smith Corp., Inc.”, confidentiality would not technically apply since these names were not within the scope of the confidentiality request. Nevertheless, the trade may take steps to mitigate this. To ensure the broadest confidentiality exemption, an importer or consignee may consider including in the confidentiality application:

  • Every variation of the names that has been used previous shipping documents
  • Likely variations of the name
  • Misspellings of the company name
  • Any D/B/A or A/K/A previously used
  • Names of sister companies, including those in other countries
  • All company addresses

Even if an importer or consignee diligently follows these suggestions, confidentiality is not 100% guaranteed. One incorrect keystroke by someone entering data in a document somewhere in the supply chain can result in a “new” variation of a company name that is not covered by a grant of confidentiality.

US Customs and the trade have had discussions about the shortcomings in this process. Perhaps that is why CBP has for the time being disabled an online form used to make confidentiality requests (NOTE: requests can still be mailed to CBP as specified in the regulations). To tighten up this process, one possible solution is to leverage IRS/EIN numbers instead of relying on guessing at spelling of names. Source: CustomsNow Blog