The International Group of P&I Clubs has issued a circular to members to inform them that electronic Bills of Lading (eBL) created and exchanged on the blockchain-based TradeLens platform have now been granted approval for use by the Group.
Prior to February 2010, rules enforced by all Group P&I Clubs specifically excluded liabilities for carriage of cargo with electronic documentation in respect of issues that would not have arisen using transferable paper copies. Since that time the rules have been gradually relaxed to allow for paperless trading systems to be introduced, once the system in question has been granted Group approval.
In the intervening decade electronic systems administered by Electronic Shipping Solutions (now known as essdocs), Bolero International, E-Title, edoxOnline, CargoX and WAVE have been granted such approval. TradeLens has now become the latest addition to that list, as of 24 March 2021.
TradeLens, jointly developed by Maersk and IBM, uses a blockchain-based infrastructure as a platform for issuing, transferring and surrendering original bills of lading. The TradeLens eBL is issued digitally by carriers to a shipper as a structured document, with the transaction recorded on the blockchain.
The shipper can view the issued eBL in the platform and transfer it as required. When the container shipment is ready to be received, the consignee can surrender it back to the carrier for cargo release, either digitally or, where required, reverting to paper with carrier support.
The International Group of P&I Clubs notes that other exclusions of cover under existing rules relating to the carriage of cargo will continue to apply in respect of all the approved providers, in the same way as they do for paper systems.
These include discharge at a port or place other than the port or place provided for in the contract of carriage, the issue / creation of an ante or post-dated electronic document / record, and the delivery of cargo without the production of the negotiable electronic document / record, which in the case of an approved electronic trading system will mean delivery of cargo other than in accordance with the rules of that trading system.