The Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA) today published its first data and process standards for the submission of shipping instructions and issuance of bills of lading (B/Ls).

The development is one of the first steps for the widespread adoption of electronic B/Ls in the box shipping industry.

“Digitising documentation, starting with the bill of lading, is key to the simplification and digitalisation of global trade,” said Thomas Bagge, DCSA chief executive.

“The alignment we’ve achieved among the carriers is a critical milestone on the way to full eBL adoption.

“Paperless trade will benefit all parties involved in a transaction in terms of cost reduction, customer experience, efficiency, growth, innovation and sustainability.

“We invite all industry stakeholders to collaborate with us on optimising eDocumentation standards for safely and seamlessly delivering goods to their final destination,” he added.

Its standards are aligned with the UN/CEFACT’s (United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business) multimodal transport reference data.

“It is the aim of standards bodies to digitalise and facilitate trade across different carriers, geographies and transportation modes,” said Sue Probert, chair at UN/CEFACT. “We were very pleased that DCSA’s standards are fully aligned with the UN/CEFACT Multimodal Reference Data Model to enable eBL transactions that are seamless and transparent across international borders.

“This type of collaboration is key to supporting global interoperability,” she added.

The DCSA eBL standard comprises the following documents: DCSA Standard for the Bill of Lading 1.0; the DCSA Industry Blueprint 3.0; the DCSA Information Model 3.0; and the DCSA Interface Standard for the Bill of Lading.

The standard for the bill of lading, industry blueprint and information model are immediately available to download for free on the DCSA website, while the interface standard will be available for download in January.

The eBL standard is the first DCSA standard eligible for self-certification under a new DCSA compliance programme, also due to be published in January.

Under the scheme, any organisation that implements the eBL standard may demonstrate compliance by completing a self-certification checklist, which will be available on the DCSA website, along with a self-certification handbook, in January. DCSA added that self-certification for its other standards would be introduced in the following months.

Meanwhile, subsequent releases of its eDocumentation initiative will include data and process standards for booking request and confirmation, arrival notice  and release shipment, the DCSA added.

“The Covid pandemic has brought more urgency to the shift towards digitalisation of the global trade environment,” said Oswald Kuyler, MD of the Digital Standards Initiative at the International Chamber of Commerce. “Achieving a standardised eBL is a foundational element of that transformation.

“It’s fantastic to see alliances stepping up to the challenge, working with industry stakeholders and delivering something practical that can have a tangible impact.

“I’m looking forward to working with DCSA to advocate for adoption of digital standards not only for the B/L – but potentially for other use cases as well,” he added.

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