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Hong Kong-based CargoX raised $7 million through an initial coin offering to build its smart contract-based house bill of lading solution. CargoX, has designs on developing so-called smart contracts to transfer house bills of lading onto a blockchain solution it is building. House bills of lading are issues by non-vessel-operating common carriers (NVOs).

The coins, also called tokens, can be used to pay for CargoX’s smart contract solutions, but those interested in the blockchain-backed bill of lading solution can also pay with traditional currencies.

“Our platform will support all the legacy payment options with fiat money, but as we are a startup based on blockchain technologies, we are working on implementing cryptocurrency payment as well,” said CargoX founder Stefan Kukman. “There will be various service levels supported, and there will be additional features and services provided to holders and users of our CXO utility tokens.”

The ICO serves two purposes in this application. It helps CargoX raise funds as opposed to seeking venture capital investment, but the coins can also be used to transact within the solution. So, the sale of the CXO tokens is ancillary to the product offering.

That’s different from another crypto-token liner shipping model that emerged in the second half of 2017 called 300Cubits. That company issued tokens, called TEUs, to underpin a solution that would penalize shippers and carriers for no-show or overbooking behavior.

CargoX, meanwhile, said it wants to be a neutral platform for global trade documentation and is starting with the bill of lading approach. The solution comprises an app, a document exchange protocol, and a governing body, which is currently being established.

“The next step is to demonstrate the viability of our platform with a test shipment,” Kukman said.

That pilot, scheduled for the second quarter of 2018, links a logistics company with its clients on a shipment from Asia to Europe.

“Technology companies often lack the shipping and logistics expertise necessary to break into this industry,” Kukman said. “On the other hand, logistics companies venturing into the tech field may be held back by their reliance on established, old-school business practices.”

To register, CargoX collects “know your customer” and NVO license information “to establish roles and permissions on the platform.”

“Once companies register, they will receive their public and private key for signing the Smart B/Ls. This can be done in the Smart B/L distributed application provided by CargoX, or with the help of the CargoX Smart B/L API (application programming interface) integrated into the company’s system.”

That integration can take a few hours or weeks, depending on the workflow of the company, CargoX said.

The ultimate goal of bringing bills of lading to the blockchain solution is to create a common, encrypted repository of data. The secondary benefit of that process would be the potential to eliminate bank-backed letters of credit for suppliers, as the smart contract would automatically trigger payment.

“The shipping industry currently wastes billions of dollars on spending related to letters of credit, which are used in global trade as a payment guarantees,” Kukman said.

In terms of how the blockchain-backed bill of lading would function in practice, Kukman said that data will be encrypted and stored in a decentralized storage application.

“These are much safer than centralized storage, as they use the same blockchain security mechanisms as the billions of dollars worth of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin currently in circulation,” he said. “Actual ownership (of the document) will be traded (sent) in the same way people send tokens today, from one wallet to another.”

Visit CargoX website, click here!

CargoX Whitepaper, click here!

Source: American Shipper, E, Johnson, 14 February 2014


Panama inaugurated the long-awaited Panama Canal expansion on Sunday, 26 June 2016 with the ceremonial transit of the China Shipping Panama through the new neo-panamax Agua Clara locks on the Atlantic side.

The $5.25 billion Expansion Program is the largest improvement project in the Canal’s 102-year history, and included the construction of new, larger locks on both the Pacific and the Atlantic sides and dredging of more than 150 million cubic meters of material, creating a second lane of traffic and doubling the capacity of the waterway.

Despite challenges facing the global shipping industry, the larger canal is anticipated to open up new routes, services, and market segments, such as liquefied natural gas (LNG). Source: – Pictures courtesy of Panama Canal Authority

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

AlixPartners 2014 Outlook for Container ShippingThe 2014 outlook for the container shipping industry appears bleak. According to AlixPartners’ 2014 Container Shipping Outlook, the industry as a whole remains buried under a growing mountain of debt amid continued market turbulence. And this is hardly breaking news. With few exceptions, the industry has struggled for the better part of the past decade. What is new is the impact that that widespread financial distress is finally having on carriers and other key stakeholders: we are now seeing a number of profound structural changes to the industry—changes that may result in broad-ranging impacts on the major market participants.

For detailed analysis download the full report from AlixPartner’s website. Source: