The international shipping association Bimco has launched a campaign with the support of the world’s biggest shippers in the bulk sector to target moving 25% of their annual seaborne trade volume for at least one commodity using electronic bills of lading by 2025.

The so-called “25 by 25 pledge” is part of an ongoing effort to accelerate trade digitalisation and streamline the supply chain process in the bulk sector.

Switching away from the transfer of physical paper bills of lading could save $6.5 billion in direct costs for stakeholders, enable $30-40 billion in annual global trade growth, transform the customer experience, and improve sustainability, as Digital Container Shipping Association says in a statement.

BIMCO is a founding member of the FIT Alliance, a partnership between BIMCO, DCSA, ICC, SWIFT and FIATA. The Alliance collaborates on the development and adoption of relevant standards to facilitate the use of electronic bills of lading. 

Nine top ocean carriers members of the Digital Container Shipping Association have committed earlier this year to convert 50% of original bills of lading to digital, within five years and 100% by 2030, to accelerate the digitalisation of container trade.

Ocean carriers issue around 45 million bills of lading a year. In 2021, only 1.2% of these were electronic.

“The wider adoption of electronic bills of lading is an important step in the shipping industry’s digital transformation,” said Grant Hunter, Director of Standards, Innovation and Research at Bimco.

“We are delighted that some major players in the dry bulk sector have already backed this community initiative to reach 25% usage across the entire bulk sector. These mining companies have made good headway with adopting eBLs over the past years, mainly with iron ore, but much more can be done,” Hunter said.   

Mr Jinsong Gu, Chairman of COSCO Shipping Bulk Co. Ltd and member of Bimco’s Board of Directors said: “We believe that BIMCO’s campaign to achieve 25% eBLs in the bulk sector by 2025 is an important step in accelerating shipping’s digital transformation.”

Laure Baratgin, Head of Commercial Operations at Rio Tinto said they “fully support the 25 by 25 pledge on the use of electronic bills of lading – as a key step in enabling faster, more secure and traceable trade flows, and bringing the industry closer to a full digital trade future.”

“As a shipowner and operator, we are fully supportive of the 25 by 25 pledge and accelerating the shift towards electronic bills of lading,” said Julius Posselt, Head of Operations-Claims Department at Oldendorff Carriers.

Timo Smit, Executive Head of Marketing at Anglo American says “Owners and operators also have an important role to play in the switch to electronic bills of lading, as they are key stakeholders in this process, and Bimco invites their support for the initiative.”  

Christos Anagnostou, Star Bulk’s Operations & Insurance Director, said: “Star Bulk is very supportive of this Bimco initiative to promote (eBLs) which is also in line with our company’s focus on digital transformation.”