India Launches Digitization of the Bill of Lading and Trade Documents

(file photo)

Published Jun 11, 2020 8:57 PM by The Maritime Executive

India is digitalizing its bills of lading and other trade documentation workflows using a blockchain platform as part of its electronic Port Community System. In doing so, it joins with a growing call across the industry for digitization both to improve port operations and to address the challenges created by the global pandemic.

The Indian Ports Association (IPA) and the trade bodies in the Federation of Indian Logistics Association (FILA) emphasized the importance of digitalization to the shipping industry and gvoernment officals. Responding to these calls, the Government of India started evaluating ways to implement electronic bills of lading, electronic delivery orders, certificates of origin, letters of credit, and other trade documentation across all export-import transactions in India. 

Gopal Krishna, the Secretary of the Department of Shipping of Government of India cited cargo stoppages due to the inability of courier agencies, the requirement of delivering of physical format-based trade documentation, and the sheer time added in person-to-person contact while handling paper documents, as key considerations in deciding to proceed with the digitation effort.

Portall Infosystems developed the Indian Port Community System in just six months. The system is operations at 19 ports, including India's 13 major ports, and is connecting more than 16,000 corporate stakeholders.The B2B marketplace is integrated into the Indian Port Community System provdes a range of services, including blockchain document transfer.  

The CargoX Platform for Blockchain Document Transfer (BDT) was successfully tested by Portall Infosystems and India’s global shipping stakeholders to transfer electronic bills of lading. CargoX and Portall Infosystems have also entered into a partnership to digitalize the processing of bills of lading and the transfer of trade documents. 

“We developed the CargoX Platform for contactless, distributed online teamwork,” said Stefan Kukman, CEO and founder of CargoX. “In these times of multiple risks to our common society, we are proud to help shipping companies, who represent the backbone of the economy, resolve supply chain document sending issues and enables them to meet delivery deadlines everywhere in the world, in a secure and efficient manner, while also lowering the document transfer cost.” 

To comply with the Ministry of Shipping’s initiative, Portall and CargoX engaged their partners to test the CargoX Platform for EXIM with Indian companies. Proof-of-concept tests and simulations were run with various use-case scenarios, including breakbulk and container shipments, export, and import from and into India. 

Leif Arne Strømmen, Vice President of Innovation at G2 Ocean, the operator of the largest breakbulk carrier fleet with 130 open hatch vessels, provided insights into testing: “We are strategically backing trade digitalization and we were glad to provide testing and insight for the project of digitalization of bills of lading in India with our partner CargoX. Because of the lockdown situation, we were unable to execute regular live shipments within the given narrow time frame. Therefore we successfully simulated shipments and processing based on real historic B/Ls, to provide complete insight into the future workflows and optimizations.” 

The ports involved in the project handle approximately 60 percent of India’s total cargo traffic. In 2019-2020, nearly 705 million tons of cargo was handled by these ports along with over 20,000 vessels.