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Bringing shipping documentation into the electronic age

Bringing shipping documentation into the electronic age
With eDocs beginning to play a bigger part in the industry’s search for speed and efficiency of commercial transactions, leading Greek tanker operator Minerva Marine and five other parties recently completed the first iron ore trade using Electronic Shipping Solution's (ESS) CargoDocs electronic bill of lading and Uniform Customs and Practice for Documentary Credits for Electronic Presentation – eUCP.

CargoDocs was used on a shipment from Australia to China. BHP Billiton, RBS, Westpac Banking Corp and Cargill worked with the Voula, Athens-based Andreas Martinos-controlled Minerva to clearly demonstrate how eDocs shipment on a typical trade can be handled with greater speed, certainty and accuracy when compared with paper-based alternatives.

Founded a decade ago by Alexander Goulandris with the mission to eliminate the significant inefficiencies resulting from the use of paper documentation in shipping and trade, ESS now claims to deliver industry-led electronic shipping and trade document / data solutions which improve physical and financial operations, compliance and traceability.

In this particular trade the electronic bill of lading was drafted by BHP Billiton in Shanghai, thus eliminating the need for separate document instructions. It was then approved, signed and issued on behalf of Minerva by Wilhelmsen Ships Services in Port Hedland, Australia, the loading port. BHP created original electronic peripheral documents within CargoDocs and the whole eSet was endorsed and presented electronically to RBS under an eUCP600 letter of credit. Once accepted, the eDocs were transferred to Westpac electronically, after which they were forwarded to the buyers, Cargill.

Times taken by the parties demonstrate the attractions of using eDocs. The eB/L was drafted, approved, signed and issued, and the full eDocs presented to RBS, the confirming bank, within one hour. RBS presented the eDocs to Westpac Banking Corp in Singapore, the issuing bank, the next working day.  Westpac passed eDocs to the buyer Cargill, completing this four-corner presentation in just four days. 100% of documents required under the letter of credit were presented as original electronic documents.

This shipment was one of a series of six carried out in quick succession using electronic bills of lading and eUCP Presentations over a period of a fortnight.

Yannis Giannopulos, Minerva's operations manager, said: "We are fully committed to the commercially successful transportation of our client's cargo around the world and the adoption of eDocs to improve our operations efficiency by speeding up the documentation process. We do believe a move from the traditional paper bill of lading to a secure electronic format is the future of shipping documentation, having numerous advantages for the industry. We are excited to be associated with this important development as provided by ESS CargoDocs solutions which is an easy functional, traceable, and user- friendly process.”

Goulandris said: “We have been able to work with such trade finance pioneers as Cargill, BHP Billiton, Westpac, RBS and Minerva Marine on this transition to eDocs. The level of interest in eUCP presentation continues to build globally, and we are excited about being a key part of the industry’s evolution to eDocs.”

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