Trade finance digitisation solutions provider Bolero has partnered with fintech consortium R3 to redesign its electronic bill of lading (eBL) service using blockchain technology.

The two companies have agreed a memorandum of understanding, which according to Bolero’s CEO Ian Kerr is a “significant advance in spreading the benefits of digitisation to all counterparties in world trade”.

Pilots are scheduled for Q4 2017 with plans “to scale quickly for subsequent pilots and use cases in 2018”, Adam Furgal, global head of incubator and accelerator at R3, tells GTR.

“The initial pilots will involve multiple banks, buyers, sellers and carriers as part of a letter of credit transaction,” he says. “The pilot will use the recently released v1.0 Corda open source platform to keep parties synchronised on a set of agreements with privacy and use the developer friendly ‘flows’ framework for distributed workflow.”

Bolero’s eBL application gives carriers and logistics providers the ability to create, send, amend and manage bills of lading digitally.

Harnessing blockchain technology, the new service will allow carriers to easily connect with corporates and other supply chain participants. Relevant parties will be able to endorse and verify an eBL’s title without needing to revert to paper.

In a statement, Bolero and R3 say the new service will “slash from days to hours the time it takes to complete presentation, financing and payment”, which will in turn boost working capital, efficiency and productivity for all parties.

The partnership with R3 will also enable Bolero to extend the reach of its eBL title registry.

Furgal adds: “The power of this collaboration lies in the connectivity between networks, opening up a mature capability from Bolero to Corda application developers and a new range of applications and use cases for existing Bolero clients. In the future, we expect to add additional choice and integration of different trade and other asset class networks to continue to drive collaboration and partnership across the industry.”

The announcement is the latest of a number of collaborations that R3 has entered recently to bring the benefits of Corda – which it describes as “blockchain inspired” – to the trade finance industry. For example, it is working with 13 banks to build a prototype application for the processing of sight letters of credit. It has also partnered with fintech firm TradeIX and 12 international banks to develop an open account trade finance platform, and just last week it announced it was working with seven banks and Finastra to develop a blockchain-powered marketplace for syndicated loans.