Global Shipping Business Network (GSBN), an independent, not-for-profit technology consortium building a blockchain-enabled operating system designed to redefine global trade, today announced that an electronic bill of lading (eBL) application built using GSBN’s API has obtained the approval by the International Group of P&I Clubs.

The IQAX eBL application is one of only a few blockchain-enabled solutions supported by major carriers that have received this key approval, which is a further validation of GSBN’s own platform, and an achievement for the consortium. This is also an important step in connecting logistics with financial institutions as part of the trade finance process.

The bill of lading is a globally recognised legal document used on trillions of dollars’ worth of container shipments every year, but it is estimated that 99% of trade still relies on paper documents. This not only introduces the risk of lost documents and forgeries, but processing physical documents is inefficient and costly. It is also an important document used by corporates and banks in trade finance. Delays due to supply chain disruption and lockdowns have made the process even more costly and difficult for shippers to exchange documents and apply for trade finance.

Technology developer IQAX is the first to develop an eBL application harnessing GSBN’s API. Built upon the consortium’s blockchain-enabled and tamper-proof platform, IQAX’s new application offers an end-to-end solution to address current industry challenges, enabling the digital document to be created and processed in a secure, compliant and highly efficient way.

Bertrand Chen, CEO at GSBN, said, “We are witnessing a once-in-a-lifetime digital leap in the shipping sector. Yet the nature of global trade means the size of the challenge is significant and complex. Our strategy is to empower application builders like IQAX through APIs on our platform, to develop solutions that address different segments and needs of this sizeable challenge. The launch of the eBL application is also a good example of connecting logistics with banks as part of the trade finance process, and we can soon expect to see more collaboration in this area.”

To further encourage interoperability between solutions, GSBN has also joined the Technical Committee of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO/TC 154) working group to help develop an international standard for Data Interchange Processes of Blockchain-based Negotiable Maritime Bill of Lading related to eCommerce platforms. The International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) is a global federation of national standards bodies in which technical committees such as the ISO/TC 154 work to prepare global standards. 

The new ISO TC 154 will standardize the way blockchain-based eBLs integrate within the eCommerce process, including the eBL transfer process among trade parties and connectivity with banks. The standard will be supported by GSBN’s APIs as well as IQAX’s application and will be instrumental to making cross-border commerce even more efficient. 

Romney Wong, CEO at IQAX, said, “We’re constantly thriving to solve real-world challenges in the logistics and shipping sector through technology. The eBL application is a major milestone in addressing a critical challenge for many participants in the supply chain. Through GSBN’s trusted network, we hope we can empower even more companies to collaborate and enable frictionless global trade.”

GSBN’s Trade Finance Advisory Group which consists of banks and aims to close the global trade finance gap using technology, will also explore using the eBL application in live customer pilots.