IGP&I: Electronic Trade Documents Act comes into force in the UK

According to IG P&I Club, the Electronic Trade Documents Act came into force on 18th September, in the United Kingdom, giving legal recognition in English law to electronic trade documents, including electronic bills of lading.

The Act was preceded, in 2022, by the UK Law Commission’s Report on Electronic trade documents, which was the culmination of an extensive consultation process with stakeholders, including the Group. The Act reflects the recommendations of the Law Commission that the law should be reformed so that certain electronic trade documents, including electronic bills of lading, can be recognised as having the same legal recognition and functionality as their paper counterparts.

What is a Bill of Lading?

A bill of lading is a contract issued by a carrier (shipping line), or by the agent, to the owner of the goods shipped, to acknowledge receipt of cargo for shipment.

The document basically states what goods are being shipped, as well as where the shipment is coming from and heading to.

Club Rules provide that liabilities arising in respect of the carriage of cargo under paperless trading systems are covered, provided that the system has first been approved by the Group.  Since 20 February 2010, the Group has approved ten electronic systems.

The Group is reviewing its approach to electronic bills of lading in light of the Act.  At the same time, they continue their dialogue with industry stakeholders to assist in managing the transition from a private contractual environment to one recognised under national laws, which will serve for the benefit of the wider international shipping and trade community.

Furthermore, earlier this month, MSC welcomed the eBL Declaration by the Future International Trade (FIT) Alliance. The declaration marks a commitment to accelerate eBL adoption across FIT Alliance member organizations, including all carriers, solution providers, regulators, banks and freight forwarders represented by its five founding members (BIMCO, DCSA, FIATA, ICC and SWIFT) and signatories across the industry at large.

The FIT Alliance was formed in 2022 by BIMCO, the Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA), the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA), the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), and the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (Swift). In forming the alliance, the groups have united behind the mission to standardise the digitalisation of international trade.

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