The UK published the Electronic Trade Documents Bill, to make digital documentation legally recognised, reduce admin costs and enable British firms to buy and sell internationally easier, reports Safety4Sea.
The Electronic Trade Documents Bill will boost the UK’s international trade, already worth more than £1.4 trillion, and will reduce the estimated 28.5 billion paper trade documents printed and flown around the world daily.
Business-to-business documents such as bills of lading and bills of exchange currently have to be paper-based due to longstanding laws. Under the Electronic Trade Documents Bill, digital trade documents will be put on the same legal footing as their paper-based equivalents to give UK business more choice and flexibility in how they trade.
The Bill will modernise old legislation such as the Bills of Exchange Act 1882 and the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1992. Removing the legal obstacle to electronic versions of trade documents will significantly lower administration costs and is expected to provide a £1.14 billion boost to UK business over a ten-year period.
It will also reduce trade contract processing times from between seven and ten days to as little as 20 seconds.
This Bill will allow businesses to choose to use electronic trade documents but does not force them to do so – allowing them to use practices and processes which work for them.
The new rules will require trade documents in electronic form to meet certain criteria designed to replicate the key features of paper trade documents.
This includes ensuring only one person, or parties acting jointly, can exercise exclusive control over it at any time, and removing the previous holder’s ability to exercise control over it once it has been transferred on.
In similar news, BIMCO has developed and published an Electronic Bill of Lading (eBL) Standard for the bulk shipping sector to establish common industry standards for e-BLs.
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