Electronic bill of lading (eBL) providers Bolero and TradeLens have entered into a collaboration to connect their respective networks of banks, corporates and supply chain participants.

Under the new partnership, the TradeLens eBL– which has thus far largely been targeted towards the shipping industry – will be integrated into Bolero’s Galileo platform, which uses APIs to connect to bank and other third-party systems, a move that Bolero CEO Andrew Raymond says will help boost adoption of both TradeLens and Bolero eBLs.

“Bolero and TradeLens are collaborating to make it easier for the banks and corporates to use the TradeLens eBL in their financial flows,” he tells GTR. “Bolero clients will benefit from being able to access the large pool of Maersk bills that are on the TradeLens platform. TradeLens clients will benefit from being able to access the Bolero network for the financial flows. The strategy is to use Galileo as an aggregator, so we will be a single point for banks and corporates to consume and use the TradeLens eBL and the Bolero eBL.”

According to TradeLens, which counts among its members ocean carriers Maersk, Alianca, CMA CGM, Hamburg-Sud, MSC, Seaboard, Safmarine, Sealand, SPL and Zim as well as numerous terminals, inland depots, customs authorities and intermodal providers, this solves for some of the complexity that is creating barriers to wider eBL adoption. Currently, organisations are forced to use multiple eBL solutions depending on what system their counterparties have adopted. In container shipping, for example, the six biggest companies currently support five different eBL systems, resulting in efficiency issues and a disjointed experience overall.

“The integration with Bolero will help increase trade velocity across our business networks and accelerate the industry-wide move toward paperless trade finance transactions,” says Michael White, CEO of TradeLens and GTD Solution, the Maersk business unit responsible for TradeLens.

However, while the TradeLens eBL will be available on Bolero’s Galileo platform, the two eBL systems will remain separate and non-interoperable – at least for now.

“The bills themselves won’t switch platforms; they’ll still be working within the boundaries of the platform they started from and accordingly there will be no need to merge the rulebooks,” says Raymond, adding that working on interoperability of each solution’s rulebooks is planned “over time”.

“For the banks in particular, they’ll be able to use Bolero to consume more bills than they would otherwise, while for carriers using TradeLens, the utility of TradeLens increases as well. Essentially, we’re providing the benefits of interoperability without having to tackle all the legal complications,” he adds.

This development is part of a continued expansion of focus for TradeLens. Last month, it completed its first end-to-end paperless trade finance transaction. The deal, which involved the shipment of agrichemicals from South Korea to Bangladesh by Syngenta, was financed with a letter of credit from HSBC.

All associated documentation was shared among the parties via the TradeLens platform. Digitised documents included the eBL directly from the ocean carrier Sealand, the commercial invoice, packing list, certificate of origin and certificate of analysis, as well as the bank collection documents and the bill of lading, all underpinned by blockchain and visible to permissioned parties as soon as they were uploaded to the platform.

Speaking to GTR at the time, Daniel Wilson, TradeLens’ head of strategy and operations, said that the company is “actively exploring” further partnerships with banks and third-party platforms.