To Address Supply Chain Disruption, The Trade Association For The Marine Industry Calls For Digitization And Standardisation


According to Thomas Bagge, CEO of the Digital Container Shipping Association, an Amsterdam-based nonprofit organization founded by nine major ocean carriers including Maersk, MSC, ZIM, and ONE, these problems were further exacerbated during the pandemic when the transport of paper bills across borders was severely impacted.

However, processing paper-based bills of lading—many of which may be needed for a single transaction—remains expensive and time-consuming, leading to a friction-filled consumer experience throughout global supply chains. This is true even if the document has developed through time.

“Consider having items shipped from Shanghai to Los Angeles, but the actual bills of lading aren’t getting delivered between the parties since there aren’t any more flights flying. Thus, you are unable to pick up your items at the LA port,” said Bagge in an interview.

According to him, this sparked a “clear change” in the container shipping industry’s push towards completely paperless trading, which resulted in the establishment of the DCSA by member carriers in April 2020. They see the advantages, he continued, including cost savings, an enhanced customer experience, and a more sustainable supply chain.

They have their job cut out for them, though, based on all the signs. In actuality, according to data from the DCSA, just 1.2% of the 45 million bills of lading that ocean carriers produced in 2021 were printed electronically.

Bagge blamed this low rate to the absence of standardisation and interoperability among the numerous parties engaged in processing trade paperwork, from shippers and consignees to freight forwarders and customs agencies. He said that digital technology could readily address this problem.