Last reviewed 3 June 2020

The target of 50% of all bills of lading to be electronic within the next decade has been set by the Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA) with the incentive being an estimated potential saving of $4 billion.

The Association’s research indicates the total cost of processing paper bills is almost three times that of electronic bills of lading (eBLs).

The DCSA points out that the International Air Transport Association (IATA) introduced e-Air Waybills (e-AWB) for airfreight in 2010 and, at present, adoption of e-AWB is over 68%.

“If we start on standardising eBL now,” it said, “we have reason to believe a 50% adoption rate is feasible by 2030.”

International freight transport insurer, TT Club ⁠— who are active in encouraging digitisation, including what it calls the cumbersome bill of lading processes ⁠— has welcomed the commitment by the group of container shipping lines that together operate nearly 70% of the world’s capacity.

TT Club has expressed concern at the continued significant reliance on paper-based processes, whether certification, checks, or the range of contractual documents in international trade.

The opportunity for seismic efficiencies and broader benefits, TT Club’s Risk Management Director, Peregrine Storrs-Fox said, extensively explored its paper with McKinsey & Co Brave new world? – Container transport in 2043 which concluded that the future for the container shipping industry was digital.

The report can be found at

“The current pandemic has inevitably advanced the digital cause,” Mr Storrs-Fox concluded. “It is entirely reasonable for DCSA to grasp this particular nettle, taking full advantage of the lessons learned over the last two decades. Indeed, the plethora of physical documentation and ‘chops’ for every international transport involving sea carriage remain fertile ground for further efficiencies that may yet dwarf those immediately in view.”