As previously mentioned,
the most burdensome disadvantages of the paper bill of lading is the causation
of delays and the extremely costly undertaking of issuing multiple sets of
original paper bills. The first aspect results from a modernization-process of
the shipping industry. Advanced and faster vessels ensure an accelerated
arrival of the goods at the destination port,
while the documents are often still being verified by some banks for the
purposes of documentary credit.
Consequently, this causes the bill of lading to arrive delayed at the port of
discharge, i.e. that the consignee cannot receive the goods rightfully. In the
end, the carrier cannot release the goods from the vessel and additional, high
demurrage fees need to be paid.
The latter aspect concerning high costs is
composed of non-calculated fees, such as the named demurrage fees, or extra
storage charges for depositories. However, it is also composed of the issuing
and administration of paper bills of lading itself. It is said that these
procedures constitute as much as 10 to 15 per cent of the total transportation
or up to 10 per cent of the goods value.
Both of these disadvantages are of
economical nature and could be improved by electronic means. An electronic
bill of lading can be sent from the carrier to a bank and from there to the
consignee within a couple of seconds. All the time that remains is the actual
and effective time needed for completing and checking the bill of lading - and
that should take no longer than the time a fast and modern vessel sails from
the port of loading to the port of discharge. Therefore, all additional fees
would be abolished and the price of the goods could be reduced. Also, an
electronic mail is by far cheaper than the costs of paper and postage imposed
on the contracting parties.
There are more advantages to an electronic
bill of lading than the two previously mentioned. For example if the problem
of delayed arrival of the documents is solved by the e-bill, much more
efficient supply systems could be established. Ordered goods could be
especially in factories where it is absolutely necessary to manufacture in
exact time-schedules, because the storage capacity does not allow commodities
to arrive before they are actually needed in the production process.
Besides, the electronic bill of lading
provides features that are much more convenient than those in the paper-world.
The e-bill can be analysed and verified on the same computer where it
virtually arrived, texts can be interpolated
without issuing or using a new paper document, and the amended or simply
checked message can be send to the next recipient without the necessity to
bring it to the post office.
In addition, the storage and record keeping
of electronic documents is much easier and requires less space than that of
paper documents. IT hard drives, little 1.44 MB diskettes, compact disc (CD)
writers, smart-card chips and other storage mediums replace the need for huge
files for heavy and bulky paper records.
Therefore, the demand for electronic
systems is stronger today and, in fact, nobody can honestly imagine a world
without electronic data bases, resources, communication systems and internet
access. Accordingly, the trade - especially the international maritime trade
which has to cope with extreme long distances - also has to evolve with the
technology and future possibilities of electronic commerce.
A last point of particular interest for the
scope of this paper is the security aspect of electronic bills of lading.
Although the technical bases of e-bills will be elaborated in the next
chapter, it can already be stated that the high security level of the
electronic bill is one of the major advantages compared to the paper bill of
lading. The technical possibilities that are available today to secure an
e-bill against fraud and unauthorized alteration are of such perfection to be
almost beyond human imagination.
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