Part 1: Critically assess the argument that electronic bills of lading are better and more effective than paper bills of lading.
This essay will answer the first part of the question by at first introducing bills of lading, their history and features and then explain what electronic bills of lading are.
Bills of lading originated as a result of Mediterranean trading during the 11th or 12th century AD when records of the goods loaded (where the word ‘lading’ comes from) on to ships over long distances were kept.
During the early part of the 20th century rules were drawn up by the International Law Association called the Hague Rules that aimed at regulating the obligations and the liabilities of those carrying the goods by sea.
A bill of lading documents the type, destination and quantity of the good being transported and also serves as a receipt of shipment when the goods reach their destination. Being a legal document between the carrier and the shipper, which must be signed by both and also signed by the recipient, a bill of lading can be treated as evidence under many different laws as it is a document of title.
Due to it being a document of title the shipment will be incomplete without the documentation; therefore it cannot be passed on to the correct party when the goods are presented at the port of destination stipulated in the ocean bill of lading.
Bills of lading are usually made in three original pieces or parts which are sent off to the consignee by mail, another is sent off to with the goods and the last is retained by the shipper. Sometimes the master of the ship retains a copy for their own personal reference. An example copy of a bill of lading may be seen in appendix one, at the end of this essay.
Two examples of ocean bills of lading are straight and order, the former being non-negotiable (not able to be transferred to someone else) and the latter being negotiable (subject to endorsement).
The benefits and unique characteristics of traditional, non-electronic, bills of lading are now considered. The legal rights and liabilities that arise from bills of lading are addressed in the following question.
The perceived ‘quality’ of bills of lading, due to the fact they are in paper form, means that they offer reliable collateral for financing and documentary credit which is of use to many organisations and banks.
Title of the goods may be easily ascertained as the traditional bill of lading can be viewed easily without the hassle of needing electronic security keys as with electronic bills.
Due to their uniformity and use internationally, there are no issues with authentication systems with traditional bills of lading which means that for there is still quite a high use of them and reports show they still the dominant form of transport paper.
However, for all the advantages there are disadvantages to using paper bills of lading many of which the electronic forms of bills of lading can overcome.