Global Shipping Business Network (GSBN), a Hong Kong-based blockchain consortium, has transmitted the first electronic bill of lading (eBL) for bulk cargo on its network after bringing in Cosco Shipping Specialized Carriers as a new member.

In a live pilot transaction, Cosco Shipping Specialized Carriers, which focuses on the transportation of oversized, super-heavy and bulk cargo, issued its first bulk eBL for a cargo of paper pulp for its customer Eldorado. A GSBN spokesperson tells GTR that no parallel paper-based bill of lading was issued.

“This blockchain-based eBL transaction marks a breakthrough for our business – it is unprecedented and an impressive step forward in our digital transformation journey,” says Hu Yiyang, the carrier’s digitalisation team leader. “Harnessing the power of GSBN’s blockchain infrastructure and the IQAX eBL solution built upon it, we are able to upgrade the customer experience and generate new value for our customers.”

First revealed by GTR in 2018 as a competitor to IBM and Maersk’s now-defunct TradeLens platform, GSBN is a not-for-profit data exchange platform that enables its members to share verified logistics and cargo data in a secure manner – including eBLs, following the development of an application built by Hong Kong technology firm IQAX on its platform in June last year.

Thus far, and like TradeLens before it, GSBN’s focus has been skewed towards container trade, with original stakeholders including Cosco Shipping Lines, Cosco Shipping Ports, Hapag-Lloyd, Hutchison Ports, OOCL, SPG Qingdao Port, PSA International and Shanghai International Port Group – which GSBN says together account for one in every three containers handled in the world. Its early product releases, such as last year’s Cargo Release, were squarely aimed at that sector.

With this latest development, the scope of the consortium’s work has now widened, says Bertrand Chen, GSBN’s CEO.

“The issuance of this eBL for bulk cargo is a significant milestone,” he says. “For mass adoption to happen, eBL solutions must address the holistic needs of the shippers for all the forms of maritime transportation, whether it’s container, bulk or tanker. This is why GSBN’s platform and infrastructure have been designed with the consideration of different standards and inherent interoperability from the get-go.”

GSBN tells GTR that the bulk eBL was created in alignment with the standards released by the Baltic and International Maritime Council (Bimco), which is working with the Digital Container Shipping Association, Fiata, the International Chamber of Commerce and Swift to standardise digital trade documents as part of the Future of Trade Alliance.

According to GSBN, Cosco Shipping Specialized Carriers is now “actively rolling out” the bulk eBL solution with its customer base.